What are you reading?
A question that is always asked for leaders and change makers around the world as an attempt to get an insight about what shaped their thinking and their worldviews.
There’s no question that reading is an essential learning skill. But the question to every aspiring leader and every reader is this, is it enough?
Books die the same way a plant dies. Slowly, when there’s no one watering it. We read the book and get excited about it, we think about the ideas (giving it water and life) and then, we forget it. We remember a quote or two, an idea or two, but we seldom put these quotes and ideas into effect. We seldom follow everything we read.
We are not hypocrites. We just don’t know how to follow them yet. We learn the surface of the idea, and we might be fascinated by it, however, we don’t know how to implement it in our life. And the answer to this problem is not by reading more books, or re-reading the same books again.
There’s significant value in rereading interesting books, but it fades next to the value of talking to intelligent peers about books we have already read.
Reading More Vs. Talking To Intelligent Peers
If you read about a subject for the first time, you learn a lot from what you read. Then, each time you read about it again, you learn more. However, more often than not, you learn less more than you did the first few times. Then you come to a point where it’s hard to be impressed by anything on the same subject. You already think you know enough.
Now, my assertion is this:
Teaching what you’ve learned to someone else, engaging in meaningful conversations with peers about that same subject would allow you to, surprisingly, learn even more about it each time you engage in it this way.
You need to have the knowledge first, that’s why you should read the book first. But then, talking and teaching others about how you think of this knowledge is what compounds that knowledge.
Compounding means exponential growth in much shorter time. It builds on what’s already there.
How to get more out of books we’ve loved?
Answer: we need to talk about them with intelligent peers. We need to teach people like us how we think about the ideas in the book. And listen to what they have to teach us about them as well.
Suddenly, the learning process is interactive. It depends on us. We are the teachers and the students. We listen to what we have to say about the ideas we’re interested in. And we learn from what we hear.
That’s why authors write their books in the first place.
Writing a book is not merely about spreading the idea, it’s a journey to learn more and dive deeper into the idea. It’s a journey for the author, as much as it is for the readers, maybe even more. And the act of teaching the reader is the same act for the author to learn.
Hence, The Idea of a Bookclub
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
— J.D. Salinger, (The Catcher in The Rye)
We might not have that luxury. But we have the second best thing:
We implemented the idea of a place where people get to engage in meaningful conversations with others like them, who’ve read the same book, and was mesmerised by the same ideas.
But then, the idea gradually transformed into a business. And, if it’s a business, it’s better to bring in more people. And, to bring more people in, we need a celebrity, maybe the author of the book in discussion! And everything changed.
It stopped being about meaningful conversations with peers, and started being like a keynote; where the author repeats the stories in the book and people get to ask a few questions. And, of course, they get to have the author’s signature on the second page of the book.
This is not what it was meant to be like.
It seems counterintuitive because we usually think that learning is a passive act. We learn when we listen, or when we read, or when we watch. We think that talking isn’t a learning act. And we are wrong.
Which Bookclub to Attend?
Bookclubs are a place where peers get to discuss meaningful ideas, and therefore, compound their learning from these ideas. And this is what to look for in a bookclub.
- If they’re loudly talking about the speaker in the event, if they’re loudly mentioning features or tokens you’ll get, if they’re loudly talking about summaries and reviews, they’re probably not the kind of bookclub we’re talking about.
Bookclubs that bring value are single focused on the conversation, rather than the speaker. They’re diving deep, rather than skimming over a wide range of shallow ideas. They’re about practical, customized, and personal knowledge. Knowledge that we can use right away.
It should be you in the spotlight. That’s how it was meant to be.
Find The Others
Now is the perfect time to connect. To find people like us.
With everything moving to digital, it’s an opportunity to look beyond our hometown. To connect with other enthusiastic readers in different continents and gain new, interesting perspectives on ideas we thought we knew everything about. This is an invitation for you to attend an online bookclub. Or maybe create your own.
It’s a way to compound our learning on subjects we’re interested in.
The First Rule of Bookclub
Is we do talk about bookclub.
If you consider yourself an enthusiastic reader, and you haven’t found a bookclub yet, it’s probably because other readers in the right bookclubs aren’t talking about it enough.
Once we engage in something and we find it valuable to us, it becomes selfish not to talk about it. Not sharing our resources with each other is selfish.
We talk about bookclubs because that’s what readers do. We talk with others about interesting ideas. We’ve been doing it all along. We just didn’t realize it but now.
You don’t go to the gym to exercise. You can exercise at home. You go to the gym to find others like you, who will push you beyond what you can do on your own. Bookclubs are the same. It’s the gym for our minds.
Lead Your Own Bookclub
Maybe you can’t easily find a bookclub out there that have what you want. Maybe you could lead your own bookclub, with your own rules. And, to do that effectively, here are some quick questions you need to answer:
- Is it fiction or non-fiction?
- Is it general? Or does it talk about a specific subject, like finance, or marketing?
- How are you going to connect the members after the session?
Finding a way to connect those who are interested creates a tribe, a sense of belonging, and earns you a seat at the leadership table.
List of Books to Read and Discuss in a Bookclub
While trendy books might be attractive, you may consider choosing classic books as well. Classics have the advantage of being popular and have more loyal readers that would like to revisit them.
Remember: deep is more effective than wide. You can choose to dive deep into two main ideas per session. You don’t have to cover it all in one night.
Some of the general books could be:
- The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace Wattles.
- How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie.
- The seven habits of highly effective people, Stephen R. Covey.
- How will you measure your life, Clayton Christensen.
Books that talk about spreading ideas:
- The tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell.
- Made to stick, Chip and Dan Heath.
- Contagious, Jonah Berger.
- Pride and prejudice, Jane Austen.
- To kill a mockingbird, Harper Lee.
- To the lighthouse, Virginia Wolf.
Books about relationships
- The 5 love languages, Gary Chapman.
- The 7 principles for making marriage work, John Gottman.
- Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, John Gray.
Books about Business and Marketing
- This is Marketing, Seth Godin.
- Crossing the chasm, Geoffrey Moore.
- The long tail, Chris Anderson.
- Delivering happiness, Tony Hsieh.
Books about habits
- The power of habit, Charles Duhigg.
- Atomic habits, James Clear.
- Tiny habits, BJ Fogg.