Your Bookshelf, Where Books Go to Die

The next time you read a book, give the gift of knowledge and pass it on to someone else.

The bookshelf from Interstellar, one of my all-time favorite films.

I admire bookshelves stocked with books. They’re so inspiring. I stand in awe of this literal wall of knowledge. “Imagine if I knew all the information stored in all these books,” I wonder. “Wouldn’t that be amazing?”

A wall of bookshelves conjures a fantasy of sitting by a roaring fire, while I sip hot tea and devour every page.

But beyond that fantasy, a stacked bookshelf really just makes wonder, “did someone actually read all these books?” I don’t know about you but I have not read most of the books on my bookshelf. I have a hard time reading books. I get distracted, I space out, and I often catch my eyes scanning words, while my brain is off in la-la-land.

Even if I did read more (and I am working on that), I still think bookshelves are a pretty sad place for books to end up.

“Even if I only get one thing out of a book, it was worth reading.” — my friend, John Cruise

I recently finished The User’s Journey by Donna Lichaw. It wasn’t game-changing but I definitely gained a few insights. I wouldn’t recommend the entire book to someone because I bet I could hit the highlights. And, for the most part, I think that kind of summary works out better for everyone.

Obviously summarizing a book’s key points saves the listener a ton of time. It’s just like, “you absolutely have to watch Breaking Bad.” Great! Awesome. I’ll do that. Just as soon as I find a spare 46 hours and 30 minutes.

More importantly, summarizing a book’s main points forces you to deeply understand the book’s content. You’ll notice that it isn’t easy to provide a tight summary of new content. And that’s because you just don’t yet understand it well enough. Once you really get something, the ability to teach it comes for free. Like Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” That’s when transfer is complete; the book’s job is done.

Now, don’t put the book back on your shelf!

“What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses — like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?” — Jerry Seinfeld

As I read The User’s Journey, I found myself thinking of my friend Eric. I remembered a project we had worked on together, where the information from the book could have been helpful. So, when I finished the book, I handed it to him. And, when he’s done with it, I hope he passes it along too.

Pass your finished books on to someone else to read, because a book isn’t a badge of honor, knowledge is. And there’s no better gift than that.


My name is Avand. I live in San Francisco. And even though I’m not a voracious reader, I love to learn new things. Lately, I’ve been trying to write more. If you enjoyed this post, or didn’t, or just want to say “hi,” please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to hear from you!