I read very few books in 2018. I have kept track of what I read since the year 2000. That’s 18 years of records and it’s obvious. I have never read as little as in 2018.
Now 2018 also happens to be the third best year of my life. Could there be a connection?
In the happiest years of my life I read considerably more.
In 2005, the happiest year, I read 42 books. None of them audiobooks.
In 2006 I read 37 books. None of them audiobooks.
In 2018 I read… 12 books. 9 of them were audiobooks. Only two out of these 12 added something to my life. One was the ‘New human rights movement’ by Peter Joseph. One was Neil Strauss’ book about relationships.
When I look at the books I read back in 2005/2006 I can’t say they contributed all that much to my happiness. About half of them were books we had to read at university, they were compulsory. Mostly Russian classics. And although they gave me the illusion I was becoming o so enlightened by digging through such famous cultural treasures, they didn’t do much for my education at all. The most important thing they taught me is that I got taught a whole lotta useless shit. Back then I didn’t realize just how useless my higher education would prove to be. So illusion could certainly be a factor in being happy.
I am officially without illusions. A therapist has stated that I am a man stripped of all his illusions. It sounded like a death sentence. But it also sounded like a clean slate, a possibility for a fresh start. Or as a good friend put it: ‘You will have to build a new William’.
The way I write about books here -I now suddenly realize- points to the fact that I have always been tempted more by quantity than by quality.
Books have always been a part of my life. As a child my summers consisted of reading. Until I allowed video games to come dangerously close at completely ruining my life. But even at the peak of my recurring video game addiction I still tend to read a lot.
Do books make me happy?
There is still this feeling when I start reading a new book that it will contain so much wisdom it will transform my life. They never do. Mostly they expand my tool kit to make conversation with people. Even with people who don’t read.
A lot of the books I have read deal with military history. I can’t say these did much for key areas of my life. They did not further my career, they certainly didn’t boost my love life and they distracted me from my studies. I even doubt if they improved my strategic insight. I bet they only improved my writing skills in some small way.
Looking back I feel like I should have been going on dates with women, practising sports, DOING something, instead of reading. Hell, I feel I should have set up a company in our garage at 16 instead of expecting some kind of magical transformation from wandering around in the library.
In my defense:
we did not have a garage.
With 2019 rapidly unfolding I want to make sure I read useful books. But those even exist? If I am completely honest then the only truly useful books I have ever read are some books on seduction and any book that helped me learn a foreign language. Some psychology books did explain in very plausible ways why people behave the way they do. This has helped me judge social situations I lot better than I normally would have. And I suppose being able to talk about books has made me look smart. In some cases talking about books has probably got me sex. Though am now entirely sure that one does not need to read a lot of books to get a lot of sex.
Realizing how few benefits reading carries does not prevent me from planning to read a lot in 2019.
To protect myself against their uselessness I plan to do a lot of my reading in German. At least I will improve my German and German is useful to me, because I teach German and make a lot of money that way. A lot being more than a decent Slovak salary.
Reflecting on what to read has made me realize the following things:
- I have to stop looking for security in numbers. I have to focus more on quality not on quantity. Not just when it comes to books but in general.
- I seem to think ‘doing something useful’ must be the same as ‘being happy’. This line of thinking may be why I have often felt so unhappy, since I am not even sure what qualifies as useful. I need to explore what that means to me, the word ‘useful’.
- I have unrealistic expectations of books.
- I am going to carefully select 12 books for this year. 12 books that I am almost 100 percent sure I will enjoy a lot and will add a lot to my life. And I will check if I see them as useful or not…
If I would be my own therapist I would focus on uncovering what the client sees as ‘useful’ and where this need to be always ‘usefully’ occupied comes from, just like the massive guilt when the client feels like he is not doing anything useful… Which is 80 percent of the time.