Throughout the entirety of my life, books have been a massive piece in what makes me happy. From an early age, my mother would sit me on her lap and read to me while we waited for my father to come home. As I advanced and learned to read, I transferred that responsibility onto myself. Books from all sources; kids’ books on sports, kids’ books on heroic figures, the Bible for Children, snippets of chapters here and there from larger and more complicated novels – all were welcomed, accepted and for the most part devoured. Being the competitive type, I would constantly watch my older friends and the adults around me to see what they kept in their library. Reading was not just about the story or the information I was wading through; it was also about what I was going to read next – about what more I could learn to influence my thoughts and speech. My father’s parents were habitual readers. I never saw them go a day without picking up a book during down time or playing a crossword at breakfast or reading a newspaper. Ideas were premium for those around me. Even my parents, filled to the brim with the responsibility of raising young children, cycled through books at a respectable rate. They didn’t just read them; they talked about them. They didn’t just buy my books; they asked me about them. To this day, I find myself going into far too great of detail about the book I’m reading and how it is influencing me than the person I’m speaking with usually cares to know.
Regardless of the reception my enthusiasm meets, books are, and will always be, the best way towards civil understanding of alternate views and lives driven by those possessing these new and innovative ways of thinking. Books are a window into the lives of those past and present; real and fictitious. Whether a classic novel or a book on economic and psychological behavior; we have an opportunity to experience other worlds through the text given to us by the author. Books are not all created equally, but their ability to impact people in different ways creates a market of ideas and interests that would have never otherwise existed.
Today, I’m focused on wrapping up Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman’s book is a brilliantly written summary of his life’s work on behavioral economics. He won a Nobel Prize for his work and Thinking Fast and Slow is a gifted attempt at bringing his theories and research to everyday practice for the general population, who would not otherwise read his research (myself included). The book is extremely dense and in order to digest the information, I often cannot read more than twenty pages, or two chapters, in a day. But the effect it has had on my thought process has been incredible. I find myself bumping into choices where, when I would otherwise have just decided intuitively, have paused to consider how my choices can more properly reflect wisdom and broad framing, in order to achieve success on a more regular basis. I do not believe I’ll master this difficult subject by reading just one book, but even reading the one book has provoked my thoughts to be a better choice maker.
My wife and I also typically read at least two books (both have to pick, lest anarchy prevail) to our children every night. It is a deliberate decision made by us to hopefully instill in them the love of reading, and learning, at an early age. We hope that they will choose to continue the responsibility of information seeking to the end of their days, and that they might pass along reading to their descendants one day as well. Books will always provide me with happiness, but if it stops with me, than so too may the pleasure of unveiling new worlds cease to move forward. Finally, I’m always in demand of a good book list. If anyone has any suggestions or “need to read” lists, please pass them along in the comments. I’d be excited to hear what worlds have been the most empowering from people of all walks of life.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,