Are Books Dumb?

Whenever I facilitate a retreat, a workshop, or a program, I take along books that are relevant to the topic(s) and put them on a table in the room.

I would refer to key New York Times best-seller books, asking if participants were familiar with such an author or book. Much of the time, I’d get deer-in-the-headlight looks. I stopped asking.

I came across this piece by Thomas Chatterton Williams in the Atlantic. It speaks to what I have experienced. It is why I challenge people about opinions. Tell me the basis of your opinion and its foundation. 

“We have never before had access to so many perspectives, ideas, and information. Much of it is fleetingly interesting but ultimately inconsequential—not to be confused with expertise, let alone wisdom. This much is widely understood and discussed. The ease with which we can know things and communicate them to one another, as well as launder success in one realm into pseudo-authority in countless others, has combined with a traditional American tendency toward anti-intellectualism and celebrity worship. Toss in a decades-long decline in the humanities, and we get our superficial culture in which even the elite will openly disparage as pointless our main repositories for the very best that has been thought.”

I grew up in a home of readers. There was always a book or two on my father’s nightstand as he read every night. One of my mother’s favorite ways to relax was to pour a cup of coffee, light up a cigarette and read a book. (She quit smoking in 1969.) We went to the library a couple of times a month. Today, part of my lifestyle is to read a book for one hour per day…and I still have time for 4+ hours of screen time on my iPhone, computer, and TV as well as to eat, exercise, complete “to-dos,” and work.

“I submit that we’d save ourselves an enormous amount of trouble in the future if we’d agree to a simple litmus test: Immediately disregard anyone in the business of selling a vision who proudly proclaims they hate reading.


Consider reading Annie Dukes, Quit: The Power of Knowing When To Walk Away. Dukes, a former professional poker player, learned the secret to winning at poker was knowing when to quit. It turns out, it takes grit to quit! As a rule, most of us are terrible quitters! Dukes helps the reader to learn to quit in order to be successful in life.

I will be facilitating a book discussion on Quit this spring. If you want to learn more and sign up, email me at