I have started asking some of the groups I speak to to respond to this (in table conversations):
“Tell the person next to you the last book you read, cover-to-cover, that was not a novel, and what you gained from reading the book.”
And then I watch.
Sometimes, I speak to groups filled with book readers. The buzz in such rooms is wonderful. But, usually, the people are busy, and they don’t read many books. And it is clear from their body language, and from their responses when I move to large-group discussion, that there were not many who could actually name the last book they read that was not a novel.
(By the way, I am a fan of novels. But, generally, such reading is not for “Professional Development”).
And to the groups where there has not been much such reading going on, I then say:
“So, it is pretty clear that reading books is not part of your own professional development plan.”
It is a sobering moment. I think everybody has this sense of guilt regarding books not fully read. I certainly do. They hear the conversations: “have you read the latest by_________?, ” and they keep quite, or seem a little embarrassed, or… sometimes they may even fake it a little…
But, here is the reality. Only 28% of Americans read 11 or more books a year. Factor in the novels in that reading group, and the number of serious readers of nonfiction books, especially business books, is pretty low.
(Take a look at this chart. The decline has been going on for quite some time).
And here’s something else I think. If a person is not a book reader by their early adult years, they may never really become one.
Now, what do I have to say about this? I’m not sure, exactly.
But I do think this – there is great value in learning from good, substantive, nonfiction books, including business books. I think that people grasp this. That is why the First Friday Book Synopsis is still going strong – actually, stronger than ever – after 17 1/2 years of monthly sessions. We provide the key content, along with the lessons and transferable takeaways, from the best business books – and we have done so, and will do so (we hope) month-after-month, for a long time to come…
But, here’s your challenge – if you are not a book reader; if you are not reading books of substance – I think you’re missing a key tool in your own professional development. What is your plan to make up this gap?
You might want to read my white paper Your Company Needs Some Business-Book Book Clubs.
Click on the image to access (and download) the full white paper.
And, if you have never tried our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com, give it a try. We have many, many synopses, each with comprehensive handouts, and the audio recordings of our presentations.
And, of course, if you are in the Dallas area, join us at our next First Friday Book Synopsis, every first Friday of every month. You can always see the books for the next month on the home page of this blog/web site.