A Dozen Myths about Reading.

It occurred to me as I was about to hit “publish” for this, that if you’ve clicked in you are a reader and this probably isn’t for you ” but maybe it’ll help you coach another non-reader to get in on our passion, so here it is:

A Dozen Myths about Reading.

It’s very annoying, but I’ve gotten used to the fact that magazine subscriptions arrive really late when you live in Hawaii. I just got my December 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine in the mail yesterday, and finally got to read that Six Myths of Creativity article there was some discussion about when the issue went on sale at the newsstands last November.

Since I’ve got books on the brain this month, I started thinking about reading myths I always hear from people. If I coach you or manage you, I get you to read and write – both things are part of the program – and I’ve heard just about every excuse in regards reading there is.

I set out to write six myths and easily came up with a dozen: can you add any others you’ve heard to this list?

1. Readers are nerds.

Well, if this one is true, I’ll gladly pay the price and be a nerd. Always thought they were cute in an endearing kind of way.

2. People who read do so because they have to.

Nope. Most people who read begin to love it. People actively teach themselves to fall in love with reading once the written word begins to open doors for them. Reading is the best way to stimulate new ideas and train yourself in creative, open thinking.

3. If you aren’t into books you aren’t really a reader.

In my opinion, books are just the cream of the crop. My husband claims he’s not a reader, but he devours more newspapers and magazines than I do. He has this fascination with junk mail, and reads everything anyone sends us. We’re both readers: we just make different choices.

At its most elemental level reading is a survival skill: you read labels and ingredients, directional signs and assembly instructions, warning notices and warranties. Illiteracy is no fun at all.

4. Reading books is a luxury of the time-rich.

I think this one goes with this trio of sub-myths:

– you have to read books completely,
– only in the order they’re written,
– and only cover to cover.
(You can read them any way you want.)

These days I’m anything but time-rich, yet I read a lot of books because I’m never without one. I read parts of them whenever I have any snippet of time. They come with me on appointments, to the bank, to the grocery store – anywhere there’s a potential line or a wait. These days I mostly read them in airports and on planes. Good old fashioned bookmarks are my friends (and they’re cheap, fun collectibles.)

Reading actually saves time: I’m not about to experiment from scratch with something I can read about first to skate up my learning curve.

5. Reading books is too expensive.

If you’re a hard-cover, mark-em-up junkie like me, they can be, but only if you’re obsessed with buying them new. However people who regularly read and sell to used book stores keep them in great condition for greater buy-back value, and us mark-them-uppers are the exception to the rule who’d never part with our lovingly marked up books anyway.

The current book I’m reaching for often these days, Abounding Grace, retails for $26.00 and I found it on a Border’s Express bargain table for $7.99 – I head straight for the mark-down tables first in every bookstore I walk into. Garage sales are bursting with out-of-print finds that are irrespectfully underpriced – lucky for you.

And you can always go to the library. Borrow and share.

Haven’t even mentioned the wealth of freebies on the internet. Perhaps in a later post …

6. Reading is hard work.

Only if you haven’t been that good at choosing the right things to read. Try more variety or mix up your choices between newspapers, magazines, books, newsletters, and Google searches on topics you’re interested in. If you’re into dirt bike racing right now, search that: look at the stuff that comes up!

Don’t associate reading with studying: start by reading for pleasure first, and when you eventually reach for the harder, more intense stuff you’ll have warmed up to the challenge – it’s sorta like exercising and getting more physically fit before you enter a marathon.

7. I didn’t like reading in school, and I’m not going to change.

As a coach, I’d love to get my hands on you… This one is probably connected to number 6, because in school you weren’t the one that did the choosing, and assigned reading for a subject you hate is the best reading-killer there is. I don’t like to read stuff that I’m not interested in either. If you aren’t capable of changing this assumption, you have a much bigger problem with change in general.

8. Readers are introverted, intellectual-type people.

Well it may be true that you groom your intellect the more you read, and that reading is more often than not a solitary exercise, but people who read are just as physical, emotional, gregarious and extroverted as anyone else. Book conversations are some of the best, most entertaining ones I’ve had – especially with strangers sitting next to me in airplanes or in seminars and conventions. Books are terrific ice-breakers. These days Book Clubs are hot – just ask Oprah.

9. You don’t really need to read to get ahead.

That’s probably true in some instances, depending what you consider “getting ahead” to be, but there’s no doubt that reading can accelerate the process, because reading accelerates learning and adapting to change. Why learn the hard way when you can read about past best practices and not reinvent the wheel?

Bren answers the question “why read?” very well here: How to read a business book.

10. Comics and other books with lots of pictures don’t count.

If you love them and enjoy them, you enjoy reading. Written words are just part of the overall menu available. I think of picture books as primers; most of us all start off reading with them.

Audio book tapes are a great way to get introduced to the literary world that awaits you too – you soon realize they only offer the tip of the iceberg.

11. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Does this one surprise you? It is a popular myth, because we can, and we usually do: ask any retailer, marketer, publisher, or bookstore staffer you know. The more regularly you read books, the better you get at it.

Moreover, you don’t have to judge (and select) books by their covers and jacket blurbs alone. You can get great fixes on book choices by skimming the Table of Contents, Forewords, Afterwords and Epilogues, or Indexes and Appendices. Choose books by association: authors who offer you annotated Reading Lists within their book’s final pages are doing you a great service.

12. “Mom, kids don’t like to get books for Christmas.”

Okay, this one might start off being true, but I don’t care. Santa Claus can buy them the hottest new toy, and their parents can get as creative as they want, but Auntie Rosa will keep giving them books and writing notes inside them so they can’t be returned. They get used to it. And the day comes when I happen to make that spot-on choice and hook ‘em in.

So what do you think? Got any myths to add?


  1. says

    Excellent points. I’ll throw out a simple approach.
    Reading improves your life. Whether its just for entertainment or business reading, you will learn something.
    I plan on continuing my learning process until I’m dead.

  2. Pat Muccigrosso says

    I was one of those people who felt that if I started a book, no matter how badly written or odious it was, I had to finish it. I say was because, years ago, I read a column by Sydney Harris which changed all that. Harris said, “Wisdom is knowing what not to read.” This is a simple but powerful statement.
    I read all the time but I still have that column and every once in a while I take it out and read it just to remind myself that I don’t have to finish everything I pick up – I can take from it what I want and walk away.

  3. says

    A Dozen Myths about Reading

    I’m one of those people that has to read. I have books stacked on my night stand, magazines stacked in the bathroom, e-books stacked in my Palm’s memory and all manner of reading material stacked inbetween. If I find myself at the breakfast table witho…

  4. says

    Well, when I was young, I was admonished to get my nose out of a book and do something useful. That’s really just another way of saying that reading is lazy! Sort of the opposite of your “Reading is hard work!”
    I guess readers can’t win for losing!

  5. says

    Shortcuts in using what you’ve read

    Right now I am getting my reading and learning fix from simultaneously reading both Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and David Allen’s Getting Things Done, both for the second time. Second time readings are always the ticket to a book’s

  6. says

    My favorite Christmas gift for years was some Hardy Boys books that were in a box with some clues to where the other books were hidden. It was a Christmas mystery to find them and it was so great. :)
    I loved getting books for Christmas, and still do, and regularly give them as well.

  7. says

    What a thoughtful and creative gift that Hardy Boys package was for you Rich, lucky you to be so loved! It was certainly a gift which kept on giving, for I know how much you do like to read now – and write!

  8. says

    The nature of reading habits – enhancing the learning of reading

    Reading furnishes the mind only with the materials of knowledge;it is thinking that makes what we read ours.~ John Locke ~I have been pondering the nature of my reading habits of late. My reading to learn, more than my reading

  9. Anurag says

    I liked all your dozen myths about reading and all are true. I am also a reading addict. I think it is the best way to keep yourself updated but two things i want to comment here.
    1) Read everything you get – World is full of choices, so if you keep on reading everything, you r not going towards your goal. Knowledge is important but selective knowledge is great. So I feel first we should set our goals..what we want to achieve? Then try to grasp all the knowledge about those things.
    2) I am follower of paperless concept. So, I never buy any book. I have met a lot of people who just look at the attractive cover of book and buy it. Afterwards, it will be lying here and there like junk. I read all the books from my machine in home and office. It provides me added advantage of easy in managing with minimal resources, selective reading and also saves a lot of paper too.
    Waiting for your comments..

  10. says

    Aloha Anurag, two good points!
    I am trying to be as paperless as I can as well, however with books in particular, my own preference is to have them in hand because I annotate them extensively as part of my own comprehension and retention process. I am not one of those who leaves them lying somewhere ignored!
    I have recently added a book page to my newest site, and it explains more there:
    Thank you for including Talking Story as one of your reading choices, it is good to meet you!