How to Discover Yourself through Books (Even if You Don’t Like Them)

Understandably, some of us appreciate a good book more than others. The others know who they are: those among us who perused summaries online to avoid the assigned reading material in school and those who scoff at the idea that someone would read for fun. That’s okay, really. Stories are not for everyone. However, while stories may not be, books are. People—whether they’re avid readers or not—can meaningfully incorporate books into their lives.

Nonfiction, such as instructional, self-help, and travel guides, brings us closer to our passions and help us connect with the world around us. Reading is not a strictly recreational activity; there are many books out there designed to teach us and are a valuable tool to bridge the gap between our goals and our starting point.

Just take self-help books, for example. Titles such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck have nearly become household names. Whether you want to learn how to become a charismatic and successful businessperson or simply learn how to meditate, there are many books that can serve as the guide to achieving these goals. The library’s self-help section is a wealth of resources to help us overcome the obstacles in our life, achieve our personal and professional goals, and become the best versions of ourselves.

Instructional books go hand in hand with this. I’m sure we’ve all heard of, and perhaps even own, a copy from the For Dummies series, in which you can find a book to teach you pretty much anything. Over the years, I’ve used books to teach myself how to write screenplays, practice mindfulness, and even train horses. And these are not your college textbooks. Steve Stockman’s How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck—a very beloved book of mine that taught me the ins and outs of videography back when I wanted to (and thought I could) be a filmmaker—is highly entertaining, easy to read, and, yes, even filled with pictures to illustrate Stockman’s teachings and help his readers visualize his points.

And the best part about books is their accessibility. Most books can be attained for the mere price of a library card and are way cheaper than a coach or online course. Books are much more reliable than technology, where educational resources such as YouTube videos, online courses, and instructional articles can be found. Books are viewable with and without internet, and they are easy to take with you anywhere for learning while on vacation or commuting. They can be viewed silently, in public, unlike videos or podcasts, with no worry of being drowned out on public transportation or in the break room at work. Readers can mark up and annotate their hard copies, which, if I learned anything from my college years, the act of writing in this way helps with memory retention. So, yes, you may actually find you learn better reading (and writing on!) a book than reading digitally or watching a video.

So you certainly don’t have to like stories to appreciate the vast positive qualities books have to offer. The right book can guide you on a journey of self-discovery or help you maximize your productivity or become a better version of yourself. And even if books aren’t your thing, they can help you with whatever your thing is by serving as your teacher. Isn’t it at least worth a try?

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