It may sound quaint, but I am a huge proponent of reading books.
I realize for a lot of people, picking up a book (or Kindle or Nook) doesn’t happen so naturally anymore. Even people that used to love to read can have trouble getting into a novel.
In fact, if you have a nagging suspicion your attention span is not what it used to be, you’re not imagining things. In Nick Carr’s book The Shallows, he explores the effects of the internet and smartphone on our ability to concentrate, which in turn results in increased anxiety.
What’s the antidote? Deep concentration. And by reading, you’re able to achieve this state and retrain your brain off of the havoc wrought by the ceaseless information flow coming from your phone.
On The Ten Minute Law Firm Podcast, I recommend my top 5 favorite books I read this year, but not all of those are suitable to jumpstarting the habit. But the following picks should help people with a variety of different interests. In no particular order:
Educated, by Tara Westover
If you heard good things about Educated, this book will likely exceed the praise. I was carried me away from the start. The author was raised by off-the-grid extremists who did not send her to school nor provide medical care. She wrestles with abuse, romance, and family estrangement, and winds up getting a Ph.D. from Cambridge. You’ve never rooted so hard for someone in your life.
Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight
Phil Knight’s story of how he built Nike was a gripping page-turner. It’s hard to believe that such a large corporation was constantly one step away from ruin. In his book, Knight talks about the decisions he made, the people along the way, and the momentous challenges they overcame on the way to building his empire.
Genghis: Birth of an Empire, by Conn Iggudlen
This one starts with Genghis Khan being left to die as a child on the plains of Mongolia and traces his rise to the ruler of the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. It’s phenomenal. I called in sick one day so I could stay home and finish it. The bad news is there are five books in the series, so if you fall into this like I did, your friends may not see you for a while.
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane
In 1918 in Boston, all hell broke loose. The Spanish Flu killed tens of thousands. Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees. The police went on strike, which as you can imagine did not go well. A molasses flood covered the city in a sticky mess. Set against all this is the story of two families, one white and one black, navigating the events of the time. The characters and the setting are incredible and I couldn’t put it down. Lehane also wrote Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and a slew of mysteries.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
A text tracing the history of humanity in 400 pages may not seem to be a good choice for a get-back-into-the-reading habit, but for the right person, this will hit the spot. Harari’s book is endlessly fascinating. It is gripping because of the connections it bridges in analyzing human history. If you love contemplation and big ideas, this book is a must.
Note: Tips for Getting Your Reading Game Back On
My challenge many times is starting a book. The first thirty pages usually require a lot of concentration as you get to know the characters and environment. Here are three suggestions to solve this problem:
1. Start the book by listening to it on Audible, then switch over to reading once you’re hooked. Audible plans are reasonable and very well worth it.
2. As much as I love fantasy and science fiction, books like Game of Thrones, Dune, or others of those genres can be bad choices, as they often throw you into a world with lots of foreign names that you have to recall quickly.
3. Read a young adult book. There’s no shame in picking up Wonder or The Giver. Highly acclaimed books for younger readers are often beautifully written, carry profound lessons, and are easier to fall into.