Monday, March 17, 2014

Read for Your Life

Read for Your Life: 11 Ways to Better Yourself Through BooksRead for Your Life: 11 Ways to Better Yourself Through Books by Pat Williams
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Motivational speaker and NBA sports executive Pat Williams focuses on the many great reasons to incorporate reading into your life.

I'm gonna stoop to snobbery in this review - be warned. I think this book could have been half as long and much better-written. It's basically a collection of quotations strung together by a web of exhortations. Williams often quotes literacy research from hard-hitting sources such as PARADE Magazine and Oprah Winfrey.

This book was definitely cobbled together by an energetic lifestyle guru, with many self-mentions and more than a few name-checks of famous people. But hey, if he convinces anyone to read more, we all win, right? If you're a sucker for John Maxwell books you'll see a pattern here: both writers love to hammer home points that really can't be argued against, all the while quoting smarter and more original people. (Which, okay, so do I.)

I fully agree with the premise that education and literacy are essential to living the good life (I work in a prison library, and see first-hand the link between a lack of education and incarceration), but I am skeptical at those who regard mere reading as an innately virtuous activity. After all, people read dreck like Fifty Shades of Grey and The Illuminati Formula Used to Create an Undetectable Mind Controlled Slave as well as Great Expectations and Moby-Dick. James Patterson (whose copious output a coworker of mine believes is assembled by a thousand monkeys in a warehouse, pounding away at typewriters) is immensely popular in prison. I doubt, however, that even his most attentive reader will come away much improved, aside from being diverted for a few hours.

Literary snobbery aside, reading is great. Read more. Read always. Read everything! (Even read - no, I can never in good conscience recommend James Patterson. Read the cereal box instead.)

Between quotations, Williams offers a few practical suggestions: advising everyone to carry a book wherever you go is smart. Sadly, the eleven ways get buried beneath the repetition. I'll skip a rigorous literary analysis in favor of stealing a few good words from the text.

So Quotable:

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." - Thomas Carlyle

"Language is the soul of intellect, and reading is the essential process by which that intellect is cultivated beyond the commonplace experiences of everyday life...Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." - Charles Scribner, Jr.

"People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book." - Malcolm X

"It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish." - S. I. Hayakawa

"In my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls - with the great outside world." - Booker T. Washington

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