I’m puzzled by an expert’s claim about the voracious intake of books he consumes and the lack of fresh intellectual output he exhibits. I’ve seen no evidence that his intake has affected his output. Instead, I see the same ideas (and granted they are good ideas) expressed differently. Maybe all the new ideas got stuck in his brain.
It makes me wonder why his reading hasn’t, seemingly, informed his writing.
I’m an avid reader and always have been. In recent years I’ve become a much more selective reader. Some things I read for entertainment, but most things I read for education (sometimes I get lucky and the same book provides both).
There is a purpose to my educational reading. I want to expose myself to ideas that will stimulate my thinking. My goal is to be a better leader, speaker and writer as a result of what I read.
The test for me and for my readers is whether I’m saying anything new as a result of the new things I’ve read. And I don’t mean regurgitating the same ideas using different words; my hope is that my ideas will be positively informed, influenced and shaped by my reading. Think of it as intellectual hybrid vigor.
I observe (and am aware of when I read and write) that quantity of input does not necessarily affect the quality of output.
Maybe it is time to challenge the prevailing “wisdom” that we should be reading lots and lots of different things, and the more the better. Certainly reading outside of category introduces one to new ideas, but you still have to evaluate the usefulness of those ideas. The good news is that you can save some time by accepting that you can’t read everything so why try?
The test–for quality and quantity of reading–is always in the results: is there evidence that you’re better at what you do and who you are because of what you’ve read?
If you want to read a great deal, do so. Unless you’re reading muck, it won’t hurt you. But if you’re in the business of creating content or just trying to become better at your craft, make sure your reading input informs the quality of your intellectual output.