I started to read books when I was around 7 grades. I remember when I first started carrying books around with me, I would get asked by friends and relatives: “What are you reading?” Then they would glance at the title and the cover of the book. I explained that it was like this, it was like that, what the basic outline of the book was. And as soon as they realized it wasn’t a novel, a short story or basically anything non-fiction, they turned their heads and became disinterested.
This is still true to this day. I realized that there is a disproportionate amount of people that are so engrossed in fiction stories, which means that we have Harry Potter readers, Katniss Everdeen, Lord of the Ring, Game of Throne fans everywhere. And especially in Vietnamese market, we are also flooded with Chinese fictional love stories, consuming a whooping amount of readers throughout the country. And even when people dabble into reading non-fiction books, they often just stuck around books with more style than substance.
And there’s nothing wrong with reading such books, but to entirely dismiss the whole genre of non-fiction books as something not of your taste may cause a big problem. It’s like denying yourself the opportunity to learn and experience yourself.
Then the reoccurring theme brought about a realization: “Most people would rather be entertained than educated.”
And this is more about than books, it’s a statement that can be applied to any medium, let it be movies, books, music, painting, articles, news…
Most people do not spend their time reading to broaden their understanding. They do not read on psychology, history, sociology, hardcore science like physics, chemists, mathematics, religion, spirituality, philosophy, classic literature (which can still be literature but has stood the test of time to prove their value in also philosophical ideology)… Most people are disinterested in such topics. Most people are not curious enough to go out of their way to research, to open up their perspective on such things.
I can name two reasons for why this is our reality.
One, the education system is messed up and it has successfully ripped us off our willingness to learn. During our school years, tests after tests have worn out our curiosity to learn. With a packed schedule at school and even a more packed homework assignments, students simply do not have enough incentive to load more than what they are forced to by school. It takes serious time-management skills to be able to get good grades and a decent academic resume and also pursue your own learning projects. Furthermore, the subject itself is water-downed to lose all of their interesting side but still maintain the fundamental equations that you have to memorize. It’s no surprising that science, especially math, chemist are the most dreaded subject by students. We are given the “what” without ever explained the “why”, we know what we know without knowing why we have to know it and how we can apply that to our daily life. This habit of taking facts and numbers into without proper questioning diminishes our critical thinking as well as our eagerness and willingness to learn. We are like children grown up in an abusive household, always told what to do and what not to do without ever being explain any common sense. No wonder why we do not want to pick up a book to read more.
Second, the entertainment industry has got hold of our eyeballs. The reason why we do not seek for more truth and understanding is simply because we do not feel that we need to. We are dangerously distracted! But entertainment doesn’t feel like distractions, does it? It doesn’t feel like a distraction when you watch good movies, listen to your favorite songs, or chit-chatting and using social media to keep up with what’s popping in the world right now. It feels good doing such things, that’s the thing. It feels too good. It feels so good that we do not need further things, we are complacent with what we have in our head. It has become so easy for us to be entertained. Ten years ago, if we want to read a good fictional book, we have to go to the nearest bookstore and thrift through those pages. One hundred years ago, we would have to find a bookstore (because bookstores weren’t as popular as they are now) and we would have to be somewhat fortunate (so that we are literate, and we have enough money to buy books). Now, we swipe 4 times and click 5 times, and we have enough books to read until next year.
Both of these combined together have turned us away from reading books to educate ourselves. One acts as a distraction, the other as a vicious vampire that sucks out all of our curiosity.
If only you knew how vast and exciting the world actually is. There’s so much to be learned, so much to be researched, so much to be pondered and contemplated. It may sound tedious and boring to you now. But may be that’s because you are so used to the taste of the instant gratification that the entertainment industry have spoon-fed. If you take this leap of faith into a whole new world of books and knowledge, it’s like switching from eating fast food to going vegan. Awkward and discouraging at first, but it would pay off later. Your mind would feel cleaner, you would feel better when you wake up in the morning, and there would be no shame or guilt after finishing a meal.
So may be now you want to make a change, to start your own adventure in this field. If that’s the case, it would mean the world to me.
Perhaps it would be best if I could leave you a few suggestions on which book to start this journey of yours, so here they are:
“Mastery” by Robert Greene. This is one of the best books in terms of mapping out a whole journey leading from a normal personal to a master (think Leo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mozart…). The whole book is comprised of short anecdotes and insightful analysis.
“The Outlier” by Malcom Gladwell. This is also one of the best books I have read. It clears out some misconceptions that we may have about the “exceptional” individuals. The author created mind-blowing connections between the background and the upbringing to the talents and the opportunity that a super successful entrepreneur like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs may have, or some other factors in our culture that we may not be aware of but are shaping our way of thinking, behaving.
“King, Warrior, Magician, Love” by Doug Gillette and Robert L. Moore. This one is truly fascinating and an eye-opening on Freudian psychology. Keep an open-minded when reading this, it may have some information that’s a little “out there” but I truly have an enjoyable experience reading it.
I hope you have a good time reading books.