The Case for Reading Books

Reading.  We do it every day, and man has been reading since time immemorial.  The way in which we read however has changed dramatically.  Reading today seems to be mostly about short, catchy phrases that are easily digested while scrolling down one or the other social media feed.  Newspaper articles are short, and headlines are full of 'clickbait'.  Have a look at a newspaper from sixty years ago and you will see a marked difference in the advertisements.  It was not that long ago that people would actually read long, copy-filled advertisements.  Nowadays, three words is deemed enough!


What has changed? Well, much has changed, too much to go into in this post and it's not really the point anyway.  What I want to speak of is attention span.  It is no secret that the average attention span is declining.  This leads us to demand short bites of information, with no one thought held in our minds for more than a few seconds.  This demand for brevity in the extreme comes at a high cost - the cost of a true, deep understanding and knowledge of the issue at hand.  This is not a cost that a gentleman is prepared to take.  Not for him the refrain "Oh well I can just Google it."  No, a gentleman must be prepared for the rigours of developing a long attention span.  A lengthy attention span allows him to overcome the plague of superficiality that has swept our world of late.


Which brings me to the case for reading books.  Not e-books, proper, old fashioned books, the paper type.  E-books do have their place for certain applications but a gentleman's library should be well stocked with books.  Why?  In my experience (this is by no means scientific) reading the right books develops an inquiring, patient mindset and the need to develop ones memory and retention.  Can't remember what you read 500 pages back?  Well, the book probably won't make much sense to you now.  One must actively consume a book - it is not spoon fed from a screen with handy flashbacks in all of the right places.


I said the right books...  As a general rule, books written when the pace of life was slower and technology didn't extend beyond the internal combustion engine (or better yet, the steam engine) are the best for developing ones mind. If I may suggest a starting point - try 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Dickens.  It is a classic, and many would have read it or at least know the premise of the story.  If you want to start with something a little more modern, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is an all-time great and a good place to start on the Poirot series.


Please let us know your recommendations in the comments below!


Andrew Wilberforce

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Andrew Wilberforce - Author (Friday, 11 May 2018 16:18)

    A clarification on the above blog post - the attention span I am referring to is not the 'special case' attention span where one might be able to focus for a long time. I am referring to what we might call the 'working' attention span. In everyday life, when we are not specifically 'paying attention' - how distracted are we? Do we have the ability, the inbuilt self control to notice the small things, or to not look at our phone in a social situation?