Books: The Perfect Career Companions

“Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding, and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy.”
— E.B. White, The Future of Reading
This essay was originally published as the introduction to Good Work—Edition Nº 18 on Holloway.com.
Soundtrack:
This Life by The Devil Makes Three

When I was nineteen, a friend and I started brewing beer. I headed to Barnes & Noble and asked the gentleman at the counter if there were any books about brewing beer. Without a worry over being complicit in an underage brewing ring (😬), he ultimately helped me find Brewing Up a Business by Dogfish Head Brewing Company founder Sam Calagione. So began my career as an entrepreneur. Since then I’ve bought books on how to write, sell, market a product, manage people, lead a team, understand design, build a product, and more.

Sometimes I sit around wondering what the world would be like if macaroni came in even more shapes (what’s your favorite?). Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we taught young students the methods and joys of lifelong learning. If a class existed called “Your Responsibility to Educate Yourself,” I’d be racing to write the curriculum for what would doubtless be the very first lesson: “How to Use Books to Learn How to Do the Thing You Want to Learn How to Do for the Very Low Price of $9.99.”

Only 57% of U.S. adults in 2016 said they are “likely to read for work or school”^2 and in 2018, 24% haven’t read a book “in whole or in part” in the last year.^3 Degree or no degree, the chances are you’re stuck on something in your career. Whether you’re yearning to move from customer support to product management, you wanna learn how to code, or you’re distraught over your failure to scratch your itch to write, I’d be willing to bet a fair amount of cheddar that there’s a book out there that would take you several steps toward getting that thing you want. Someone has struggled with the same shit before.

I’ve had $10 books that have changed my life more materially than an entire four years of college was able to do. Think of spending money on books not as a cost, but as an investment. If you’re cost- or environmentally conscious (or hell, you just like books), find a library (or a library app). As for time, you don’t have to have two free hours every day to make this work. I read over breakfast or lunch at least three times a week (it’s on my schedule!). That adds up to over 100 hours of reading time a year. Compare that to the time you’d waste if you had to invent the wheel every time you wanted to drive.

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