I receive a great newsletter called Spiritual Wealth. Its motto comes from social reformer Henry Ward Beecher: “No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.”
A recent issue was entitled “The Lost Art”. The thrust of this excellent piece was that the advent of electronic media in all of its different forms has resulted in a significant decrease in the amount of reading that we do.
In the past, people used to read for information, entertainment and as a “noble intellectual pursuit”. Nowadays, the only things that many people read with regularity are their emails, text messages or “tweets” on their Twitter accounts. (Don’t get me wrong; I use Twitter and I think it is great. But there needs to be a balance.)
Being well-read has implications for public speakers. As noted in Spiritual Wealth, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. The more we read, the better we are able to think, the more clearly we are able to express ourselves, the more stylistic and refined our writing and speaking will be. By reading good writing, we expand our vocabulary and become more adept in our use of language.
So what to read? My suggestion is that you approach reading the way you should approach eating: choose a well balanced diet. Try some classics, delve into Shakespeare, read a great autobiography, dip your toe into the waters of philosophy, explore some short stories. And don’t neglect good newspapers. In my opinion, one of the finest is The Economist, not only because of its reportage, but also for its wonderful use of English.
By all means, throw in the occasional “trashy” novel for fun, but don’t shy away from heavier things. It is like weightlifting; the more weight you lift, the stronger your muscles become.