"Atomic Habits, Essentialism, Zero to One... You sure you don't wanna keep these?" my boyfriend asks as I show him my goodwill donation pile. "And, can I take a few?"
"Go for it," I say as I chuck "Thinking Fast and Slow" down the giveaway trash bag.
These 'business self-help' books have fucked me up. I live in a city of entrepreneurs, thousands of smart young people with exactly the same bookshelves. "You can tell a lot about someone from what they read", friends say as they smile approvingly at other friends' identical libraries. It makes me wonder, when someone first gets off the plane to move to a tech hub, do they receive a list of required books to purchase before they can proceed to baggage claim? Sure feels like it, and I'm no better. My shelves are also littered with the same books everyone else reads.
Every new house party I go to, I also wonder if these people have even consumed any of the books they're eager to show off. My novelist friend once dished to me, "James Clear once told me that over 90% of people don't read past the first chapter of any book." I'd heard similar stats before, and when I was a newbie to tech I swore I'd be the exception. I drudged my way through 'The Four Hour workweek' (also known as 'the bible' back when I was nomading around the world.) I diligently took notes on The Effective Executive and discussed the lessons learned from Thinking in Bets.
And with each tech-hub-required book I finished, I burned a hole in my heart which before had read in order to make me come alive.
I can't be the only one. So I started asking friends what they read for fun. My non-tech friends smiled brightly. They read slow-burn romances or vast fantasies or quirky mysteries, old classics or poetry. My tech friends, if they had an answer, only had two 'acceptable' responses: history (Sapiens, etc.) and sci-fi (Foundations, etc.) But those are on the "tech required list to fit in" too. I wanted to know, what did they read just for them? When the world went quiet and no one was looking, what did they read to feel a spark in their souls?
Usually the answer was awkward laughter. And if I was asked the same I'd respond the same. Because I beat myself into believing books were work and reading was for productivity, and now I can't enjoy a novel no matter how fun or interesting it might be. The act of reading anything feels like drudgery.
So I'm clearing out my bookshelf. Fuck it if I lose my 'cool kid' badge.
I want to feel something again when I read.