The Books We Read

For the longest time, I never read fiction. Fanciful stories with laborious dialogue lacked the necessary pragmatism for my taste. I wasn’t persuaded by people who claimed non-fiction readers were missing out. Because those people were bookworms who would read anything put in front of them. Even kitsch found in grocery store aisles.

But I was wrong. Really wrong.

While I can’t recall a specific turning point, eventually I decided to give fiction the benefit of the doubt. With rare exception, it had been well over a decade since I’d picked up anything other than non-fiction until late 2014.

Initially, I forced myself to read fiction — an effortful task to be sure. On more than one occasion, tossing the book across the room for good seemed so enticing. But, over time, I began enjoying the story. Bit by bit, I grew to appreciate the vast imagination authors possessed as their characters’ lives unfolded from one chapter to the next.

I began seeking out fiction.

Looking back, there were seasons I’d only read something that I believed offered direct benefits. This included trysts with books on coaching, leadership, pop psychology and more.

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
-Oscar Wilde

And while people read for many reasons — study, enjoyment, personal growth, professional development, etc. — my singular focus was crippling. Because I was attempting to grow through very narrow pursuits.

Creative solutions are hard to come by when we’re consumed by the familiar. I find that varying my reading list has a similar effect to going on vacation. The break from routine helps refresh, re-energize, and often increases productivity. I regularly cleanse my palette by cycling through different kinds of books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Authors I admire. Ideas I may not agree with.

This approach has stretched me and made me better.

I understand why leaders only read books on leadership. Just like I understand why some pastors only read books by other ministry leaders. Or why some coaches only read books by other leaders/coaches.

I understand because I once took comfort in this approach myself. It wasn’t until I broadened my literary horizons that I stopped missing out on SO MUCH MORE.

For all you readers, here’s a simple challenge: search for a new book unlike what you typically read. And then, give it a chance — especially when it doesn’t come easy.

You may enjoy the book. You may not.

Either way, it will be a step in the right direction.

Tim Holland blogs at www.timhollandonline.com. He’s also on Twitter @Tim_G_Holland.