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Leo Yockey

Perhaps This is Why I Read

Posted personal, essay, books


This morning, I finished my 40th book of 2020. I’ve officially doubled the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

I thought that 20 books was a bit of a stretch, but doable. 40 books? Absolutely unanticipated. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been.

When 2020 began, I had just finished Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan. The fall of 2019 revealed to me that perhaps I needed to confront my introversion. This was when I discovered the magic of books.

Prior to this book, I had only read about introversion and social anxiety from the detached world of Wikipedia and medical articles. Maybe there would be an online article every once in a while, too. “10 Ways to Beat Anxiety and Live Your Best Life.” Is that really anymore useful the shallow articles of teen magazines? “10 Signs That He’s Really Into You!”

I’ll pass.

Books Allow Me to Dig Deep

Books allow me to be enveloped in the experience, to see myself as the actor in the story. Authors have the incredible responsibility of giving words to our thoughts and feelings. Giving words to our thoughts and feelings is the basis of what allows us to grow as humans. Books are a medium with which I can have a dialogue between the outer world and my inner self. Take a sentence like this, from Pan's book:

“I’m also shocked to discover that talking to strangers turns out to be one of the cheapest, easiest ways to feel good and get a hit of dopamine when you’re feeling low, invisible, or lost in your own world.”

This hits a lot deeper at the end of a compelling story, as opposed to being a bullet point on some list. Perhaps the magic is in the story itself, not the conclusion.

Anyway, I can determine whether or not I believe this excerpt to be true. I can wonder if I’ve experienced the same, and what that means for me. If something I read resonates deep within my soul, I always pause to reflect. Always. But I’m a lot less likely to do this if I’m watching a video or reading an online article. Perhaps it's because my attention is being pulled in more directions than if I was deliberately taking time out of my day to focus on reading.

Books > School

If I’m reading an ebook, I’ll copy the excerpt that spoke to me and paste it into a note, along with some thoughts about how it applies to my life. This is self-education. This is the foundation upon which I learn outside of the confines of institutional education. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this step.

The “Books” folder in my note-taking app is filled with lessons, advice, and inspiration from the biggest names throughout history. The best part is that it’s tailored to me and my preferences. No algorithm needed. I find myself frequently consulting my notes, especially when I’m facing an intense challenge.

Books: The Original Internet

Books are the original internet. They opened up the world for so many people. Throughout most of civilization, books were the medium through which most people learned that there were other people and cultures different from them and, paradoxically, that people far away could be jut like them. Like the internet, a popular book could go “viral” and quickly change the way that a particular group thought. Also like the internet, people were often “canceled” for the things that they wrote.

Honestly, none of this has changed about books. It's just that we also have the internet now, and the internet makes us forgetful.

Books Can Snowball

Starting with 1 book to address introversion and another to address race relations in America (The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson - highly recommend!), I now have a list of over 150 books to read. Each book that I read leads me to at least 1 additional book on the subject. A rabbit hole of epic proportions. Once I’ve realized that I don’t know enough about a particular topic, I get my hands on a book as soon as possible.

At this rate, I'll have over 1,000 books in my queue in just a few years! But I love it; I wouldn't have it any other way. Perhaps the real joy in reading is the belief that my insatiable curiosity may actually be satisfied someday, making the impossible possible.

Books Build Dreams

I dream of someday being able to put my own thoughts and feelings into words that are lasting to others. Perhaps it’s in my blood. My dad always dreamed of writing a book detailing the differences between life in America and his homeland of Tanzania. My maternal grandmother wrote a large autobiography, never published but printed and dispersed to her 3 children. Perhaps it was reading that autobiography after she died that allowed me to see the power of the wisdom in books; her own words about death helped me cope with hers.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

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About Leo Yockey

I host The Leo Yockey Show, where we unpack the challenge of finding our purpose in the 21st century. If you like what you see here, you may want to join me on Instagram or Twitter.