When you want to subject people to your ruling, to make sure they never wise up and rise against you, you take away their books.

That’s what we did for so long in the US south. Some countries still do it to women. We restrict certain books from prisons in hopes that convicts don’t utilize the power of education against the system. We do the same to children, by banning books from school libraries. 

The “ruling class” knows how powerful education is. That’s why they take it away from the people they are trying to subordinate. 

In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg, ironically while in political exile, began experimenting with what became the movable metal printing press. Now more commonly known as The Guttenberg press. 

The result was the mass production of books for the first time in human history. It shook the ground that civilization stood on. Not unlike the Internet, it created a shift in power by giving access to information and education to people who couldn’t previously get their hands on it. It became the core behind-the-scenes tool for every revolution or rebellion that would happen in the world since. 

  • It was the mass production of the bible that sparked Martin Luther’s rebellion against the catholic church. Known as The Reformation.
  • It was the mass production of John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government that gave way to the American Revolution. Thomas Pain’s Common Sense rallied the colonists to take action (it also inspired the french revolution). 
  • It was the mass production of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto that is responsible for the revolution in China, Russia, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam and failed revolutions in Spain, France, Hungary, Germany, and more.
  • It was the mass production of Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass that rallied the public support needed to fight the American Civil War and abolish slavery.

It’s clear. Books in the hands of the governed are dangerous to the governing. It’s a type of power the powerful don’t have an answer for. Not that they’re not trying. Today the ruling class’s war on education is more sinister. 

We’re convinced that education is a matter of college attendance. And they have no qualms about pricing people out of the market. Making many people who have to take out loans to attend school servants of their debt and the ‘grace and public goodwill’ of our universities. 

But a powerful education is not theirs to give. They can make us pay for certificates and degrees, but not education. Education isn’t bought, it’s earned. No amount of money will make you educated, it is up to you to put in the work.

You don’t have to be an aspiring revolutionist to gain power from reading and education yourself. 

Here are five of the many ways reading can be a tool for creating a better life, whatever better life means to you.

1. Mental Health

In many ways, reading is a form of meditation. It requires you to calm your mind and focus. It pushes away the distractions and irritations of life and allows you to get lost in a world created by a fellow person. 

Sticking with the mindfulness comparison, a study was conducted to discover the benefits of reading on your blood pressure and psychological distress. Healthline reports, “The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.”

In other words, If you’re looking for a mental health fix that’s equivalent to hours of daily meditation, just read. 

From my own experience, I can say that dedicating a chunk of your day to reading makes you a calmer person in general. So much so that my friends noted a significant change in my demeanor when I created the habit.

2. More Money

Who would have thought that reading books about money would help you make more money? Well as it turns out, people who make a lot of money figured this out. 

Thomas C. Corley spends his time interviewing millionaires to try to determine what habits they have that got them where they are. In Business Insider he reported, “85% (of self-made millionaires) read two or more books a month for education and learning purposes”

Mega-billionaires like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk all attribute their success to their prolific reading. Warren claims to spend 80% of his day reading books

I mean, it makes sense. There are a million ways to make a dollar, the more tactics you learn, the more opportunities you’ll have at any given moment. And there are thousands of books on each one: Stock investing, e-commerce, real estate, options trading, private equity, sales, the list just keeps going.

3. People Will Like You More

Yes. This may seem odd, but reading will actually make people like you more. 

There are a few reasons for this. For starters, your mental health improves and you make more money. Two things people like in other people. 

Another reason is more biological. 

Humans are strange and complex animals. One that helped us survive and thrive in brutal environments over thousands of years is our complex social structures. Our emotions allow us to connect with each other on a level that other animals don’t experience. We have our mirror neurons to thank for this. 

Mirror neurons are little firing neurons that get triggered when we watch other people do things. In essence, it’s how we learn from the experience and actions of other people. It’s also the main reason we experience empathy and can put ourselves in the shoes of others. 

This is why ‘fail’ videos on the internet, particularly the ones that end up with people getting hurt, go viral. When you watch a skateboarder fall off a rail onto their nuts, you feel a sharp sense of their pain. 

Reading exercises these neurons. When you’re reading a story of someone you place yourself in their shoes. It’s like a workout in empathy. The more you can apply your empathy, the more the people around you feel like you truly understand them. They won’t know why they want to see more of you, but they will.

4. More Creativity 

If creativity is yin, consumption is yang. What you create and what you consume are intertwined. That can be good or bad news. If you only consume Netflix shows and Instagram, you’re probably not going to create something of great value. But all you have to do to create better things is consume better things.

Reading books with creative value will help you to find your own creative value. I found this especially true when I doubled down on my reading. I always wanted to write, but all that came out was very generic blogging-style ideas that are a dime a dozen on the world wide web. As you’re developing yourself as a creative, in your apprenticeship phase (whether you’re someone’s actual apprentice or self-teaching) you rely on imitating the artists or creatives you want to reflect. 

The more you consume the works that you love, the more you can take the lessons of thought and style with you in your creative process.

5. Find your calling

Reading is the easiest way to discover new parts of the world. I remember when I picked up the 4-Hour Workweek at 16. I hadn’t voluntarily read very many books before that, and the book wasn’t really written for an audience like me at the time, but it blew my mind. It made me realize how big the world outside the classroom really was. I became obsessed with learning the world of internet businesses and ultimately, although I didn’t start a business and move to the beach, it was the start of the rest of my life. 

Since then, I’ve used books to discover more passions and callings. Writing, for example, is one of them. 

Interested in learning about structural engineering or architecture? Pick up a book about it and dive into the world. It’s by far the easiest way to get a taste of something without making a commitment to it. Do this over and over again with every field that interests you. I’ve found weird guilty pleasure interests in things like war strategy, philosophy, fictional writing, investing, and education. I’m not going to go down all those roads, but I’m definitely going to continue to get lost in books on those subjects and incorporate the lessons into my daily life.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still not sure about the power of reading, I offer one more thought. 

As you would imagine, Warren Buffett is often asked for success secrets and investing advice. Makes sense. He’s the world’s best investor according to the scoreboard. And he, and Charlie Munger, were able to mass these riches in a very different way from his peers in the meg-billionaire category who started innovative startups. He made his money putting his eggs in baskets that were on the move. All he had to do is sit back and relax.

Do you know what advice he gives to the people who ask him the secret to riches? 

Read more books.