What are you reading?

Yesterday I listened to Mike Rowe’s recent interview with Charles Koch. It’s fascinating all the way through, but toward the end Mike asked Charles “What are you reading?” That question made me sit up straighter in my chair as I listened for Charles’ answer.

Reading, and reading well, is an immensely valuable skill. At its heart, the ability to read is the ability to be communicated with, to receive and understand another person’s thoughts. Because it’s impossible to interrupt,  the speaker is allowed to carefully develop his or her ideas. And because the speaker isn’t in control of the conversation, the reader can take time to consider what’s being said very carefully: digesting it, interpreting it, and comprehending it as time and space allow.

But as valuable as reading is, it pales in comparison to the act of sharing what you’ve read with someone else. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to connect meaningfully with someone than to discuss what you’ve been reading.

I have a good friend who’s a successful lawyer and businessman. He’s a bit older than me and I look to him as a reliable mentor. We get together a couple of times a year for lunch and I always look forward to our visits. Every time we get together, he asks “What are you reading?” This question is one of the things I most look forward in our visits. We share notes about what we’re reading and we often both walk away with new additions to our reading lists.

In the process, we learn about each other. A good partner will engage with you in your experience, alternatively sharing in the thrill of discovery and broadening your understanding. They share other things that have affected their own reading, and even when they disagree with you they encourage you to read more.

But the best reading doesn’t stop at the sharing of it. The best reading moves you to change. It reshapes you and enlarges you. It’s what happens when you first began to understand what Atticus means when he says it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

There’s so much to do. So what are you reading?

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I'm a 30-something lawyer working at a fast-growing tech startup. I read Milton (John and Friedman) for fun. And I'm out to change the world.

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