People Don’t Actually Read

My friend Justin Murphy made a good point recently: “People overestimate how many books other people read.”

The trend may even be accelerating. I’m in a friend group of intellectually curious people, and just about everybody says they’re reading fewer books than they used to. But at the risk of sounding like your 5th grade English teacher, reading books is the easiest way to find good ideas to write about.

Another friend, Jeremy Giffon, says that whenever you’re intimidated by a thinker, you should know that 90% of their ideas are regurgitated from books. Their original thought is the other ten percent. Even better, he says: “One advantage of reading books sequentially is seeing just how rare it is for anyone to actually make a huge leap.”

Taken all together, here’s what this means:

  1. Today, the simple act of reading books gives you a huge advantage. If you’re looking for ideas to write about, read more. 
  2. If you can, read old books.
  3. Reading books chronologically shows you how rare leaps in knowledge really are. Once you see how ideas are remixed and recombined, you’ll feel comfortable building upon the ideas of others — which is what great writers always do.

Cover Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash