You Are What You Read
We all know that our diet is very important to our overall health and wellbeing. The food we consume plays a large role in dictating how our bodies, and even minds, operate and function on a daily basis. But have you stopped to consider the effect of what you read on your mind, body, and soul?
Consumption goes beyond material objects such as food and products. The focus of this article will be specifically on the books we incorporate into our diets.
First off, I will openly admit I am a bookworm. A bibliophile. So my bias tends to lean towards believing that everyone should have some sort of regularity in reading books. News articles and opinion pieces do not count towards the reading count (though, I would appreciate your continued following and reading of this blog). To me, there is something uniquely special about reading a book.
Audiobooks and apps like Blinkist are a bit of a grey area. I’ve only listened to one audiobook and it felt like a bit of a watered down experience. Blinkist, if you haven’t already heard of it, is a sparknotes sort of app that summarizes nonfiction books into under ten minutes. It is perfect for those topics that you’re interested in but don’t feel like investing the time and money into acquiring and then reading a 700 page tome.
I make allowances for material such as the above. But if we consider reading to be a form of eating, then audiobooks and Blinkist are more snacks than the main course. For the sake of fairness, let’s also include news articles and blog posts under this miscellaneous category.
What I am basically trying to get at here is that reading proper books is like sitting down for a well prepared meal. The table has been set, the cutlery is in its place, and the course has been prepared by a chef.
Now, this does not speak to the quality of the book. The chef could be horrible. The meal, while at first look appears to be appetizing, is actually quite tasteless. Maybe there is too much salt. Maybe you even realize that it has been microwaved, to your great disappointment.
Regardless, the reason I’m pushing this metaphor is because (supposedly) a book serves as a vehicle for a fully fleshed out idea or story. They aren’t limited in the way that memes, tweets, blog posts, and articles are. They are designed to be several hundred pages so that the author can fully communicate to the best of their ability what it is they want to share. Many hours of writing, rewriting, and editing have gone into the creation of a book.
This having been established, let’s move on to the diet itself. What types of books should you consume? At the end of the day, this comes down totally to personal preference. Having said that, I (of course) have my own personal recommendations.
There is so much to learn about in the world. Because of this, having regular portions of non-fiction books allow you to gain some insights into the histories, events, and ideas around you. As for what kind of non-fiction (science, historical, economics, political, etc), that is up for you to decide. They key is to find books on topics you are curious about and want to learn. Otherwise, reading will be a drag. My recent non-fiction books have been autobiographies. This year, I’ve read books from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michelle Obama, Kevin Hart, and Robert Iger. Perhaps a bit eclectic, but what they all shared were fascinating, inspirational, and motivational stories of how they came to be the people they are today. If you want to succeed, observe the people who have already been successful. There are sure to be lessons to be learned.
Don’t roll your eyes on this one. None of us are perfect. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, or listened to the Stuff Explained podcast, you will know how important self-help is to me, especially this past year. In fact, this very article is meant to give advice to people to have more balance and wellness in their lives.
As for the type of self-help / self-improvement books to read, this is up to you to decide. Some lean much more spiritual than others, and that isn’t something I would force on anyone. I would recommend you try reading at least one book from an acclaimed and respected speaker on spiritual matters (Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, even Oprah). It can be an eye opening experience. For me, reading these books, which make up the majority of my recent self-help diet, has helped me break some limiting old habits and beliefs. My perspective of myself and of life have altered, and I truly feel it is for the better. If all of that sounds too heavy or deep for you, give it time. While you wait, a book like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck could be a more lighthearted entry point.
Self-help can be about anything, though. If there is any area of your life you would like to improve (decorating, cooking, finances, leadership, relationships, etc), there is certainly a book out there that could be very useful.
Some people seem to think that fiction isn’t serious because it is not “real”. I always had the impression that serious adults only read serious things, as in books from the two categories I mentioned above. But where is the fun in that? In my opinion, you can’t have a truly all encompassing and healthy diet of books without including works of fiction.
The fiction genre is massive and includes novels that cover serious topics such as oppression and totalitarian regimes, as well as fantastical and magical adventures in worlds and realms that stretch the imagination. There is something to be enjoyed by everyone.
The main reason I added this section as an absolute must for your reading diet is because life is boring without imagination. Activities we undertake should be imbued with as much joy as possible. Doing anything just for the sake of learning and doing better, while beneficial, can be exhausting. Imagine doing the exact same gym routine or running/walking the same route every day for years? The allure, if there was any to begin with, is quickly lost and the activity becomes tedious. It is the same for reading.
Most of us who enjoy reading fell in love with activity as young children reading works of fiction. That inner child still exists. I’m a fan of historical and fantasy fiction. This has been the case since I was little. This year, I’ve made sure to interlace a few “fun” books amongst non-fiction and self-help. It has been so beneficial and has actually allowed me to enjoy the non-fiction and self-help books even more!
So, there you have it. The Big Three genres to keep in mind when making book selections are Non-Fiction, Self-Help, and Fiction. It helps to have at least one of each on hand at all times. This way, you can just pick one up when the fancy strikes.
I used to be very stubborn about reading and would only begin a new book once I’ve finished the current one. But where’s the fun in that? Do you only exclusively watch one television show at a time, or do you switch it up because there are a few good shows you really enjoy? It is the same with books. Feel free to pick up and read whatever you want, whenever you want
If I’ve missed any genres, it wasn’t to demean them in any way. Non-Fiction, Self-Help, and Fiction are broad enough that they cover most. Feel free to add poetry, comic books, and anything else you feel I missed to your diet.
The important thing is to be flexible and create variety. You can’t eat the same thing every day for your entire life, and the same applies to reading books.
For a truly well-balance diet, mix it up. Read from different authors and from different genres. Expand your mind and imagination. Give yourself the gift of being informed, entertained, and inspired.
Remember, you are what you read.
Happy reading to you all!
If you haven’t done so already, check out our Book of the Month section. Each month, we handpick a book to feature that we think could add value to your life.
GoodReads is an absolutely fantastic app that provides the most trustworthy reviews for books you’ll find anywhere. They also have a fun feature called Reading Challenge that helps you set reading goals, track them, and compete with friends.
You can find my 2019 reading here. Feel free to add me!
Other articles you may enjoy:
– The “Mindful Eating” Diet
– Get Back to Joy
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