In Russia, where I was born and raised, the general thinking is that “high-quality literature makes you a better person.”
Kids are made to read War and Peace, Dostoevsky, among other classics, while still in school. Most kids either skim or don’t understand 90% of what they read. But still, there is this cultural idea that you can brag about “reading a lot”.
We forget that Hitler loved to read, as well. Look how that worked out for him.
Reading – especially reading fiction, although there non-fiction out there that fits this rule – allows you to tap into parts of yourself you didn’t know where there. It doesn’t make you a better person. No book will, even those (especially those!) that boldly promise that they will.
Every book is a door to a hidden version of you. And you can uncover it only by walking through it, by reading the book, absorbing the world the author put you inside, and paying attention to what you think and feel.
Written words have a magical ability to provoke new insights and emotions in you. Often different from the ones the author is trying to convey.
What matters is not the quality of the book but whether you’re genuinely interested in reading it.
This is why any book – even a poorly written one – works.
Everything that’s written and published has the ability to become your door. The important part is to read what’s interesting.
So read everything and anything.
Don’t be like me. Don’t fall prey to the (Russian) dogma that only dead people write good books. Don’t assume that reading is what you do to become better, faster, richer, smarter.
Read whatever makes your heart beat faster, whether it’s comic books, sci-fi novels, or Fifty Shades of Grey.
Read and follow your curiosity. Read and become another version of yourself.
A truer version.
Books don’t make us better people. But they make us more ourselves.