Reading Broadly Has Broad Benefits

October 7th, 2015

Winston Churchill won his Nobel Prize for Literature, not Peace. Who knew?

History brims with examples of leaders like Churchill who believed that deep, broad reading nurtured the knowledge, habits, and talents necessary to achieve success.

In 2008, The Atlantic published an article by Nicholas Carr that served as a cultural reality check. In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr wrote,

I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. … Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.

Today, studies report that our attention span has decreased to 8.25 seconds—which should give us a great deal of pause.  

Reading deeply, as opposed to scanning the Web, is important for perpetuating our historic roots, values, and culture. It’s important to our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development—no matter what our career and calling.

Max Anderson, head of Stagecoach Ventures and author of The MBA Oath, decided to do something to help Christians read and think more deeply. Each week he writes The Weekend Reader, a newsletter of five articles worth reading and ideas worth considering.  In a recent issue he wrote,  

“Today books, blogs and newspapers are commodities. We read them once and quickly, often not investing time to question them or read them discerningly. This is not a consequence-less choice. A number of studies are showing that the way we consume media actually changes the chemistry of our brains. More and more we consume information in bits rather than books, in sporadic, frantic skims rather than in long, deliberate reads. It is making us shallower, more distracted, and more anxious. The way we read has profound influences on the way we think and on the type of public discourse we can have as a culture.”

The fact that business people are reading less is particularly problematic, says John Coleman writing for Harvard Business Review.

“… deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”  

Coleman offers a number of leadership benefits for reading. For example, reading can

  • Improve intelligence
  • Lead to innovation and insight
  • Make you smarter through a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge
  • Increase verbal intelligence
  • Enhance abstract reasoning skills
  • Increase creativity
  • Make you more effective in leading others
  • Improve your ability to communicate
  • Make you more emotionally intelligent

As Christians called to be our best, taking time to read broadly should be a priority.

Consider some of these books for your to-read list:

Top Classic Literature According to Good Reads Recommended Reading List

11 Books Every Young Leader Must Read