I’m nearing the end of a book I’ve been reading for the past week. It’s written by a known expert in his field. The information is excellent, helpful and ultra-valuable. However, there are two areas that trouble me. The first is that the author, in my opinion, comes across as somewhat arrogant. More disturbing though, is that certain things he writes as facts are really nothing more than opinions. And, they should not be taken at face value.
The above shortcomings, while not enjoyable to me personally, take nothing away from the immense business value I’m receiving.
If I may suggest; when reading a book, especially one by a proclaimed (by self or others) expert, read with discernment. It is our human nature to believe what is written. This, through a combination of perceived authority and — in the case of this book — because most of the information is so good.
It is important, while reading, to ask questions such as:
- Why does he/she say this?
- On what evidence or proof are they basing their statement?
- Are they being overly influenced by their personal belief system?
Just because one writes a book, that does not mean they know it all (I can tell you that first-hand!). 🙂 It does mean they should be sure that what they write is true. And, they should keep their ego in check during the process; perhaps questioning themselves, and their own premises, when they begin to provide opinions communicated as facts.
The rest, however, is up to us as readers. It is our responsibility to first separate the wheat from the chaff. And then to take the wheat and leave the chaff.
Just my thoughts. Would love to know yours. By the way, any other questions that come to mind in addition to the three listed above? Did I miss any?
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I couldn’t agree more! I just posted a note on my blog about some of the hidden dangers in reading some of these books (mostly in the fitness field). While the information is great for some good ideas and such, it’s important to note that most of these books are also a bit of a sales pitch for the authors ideas and methods.
You can probably state the main idea of most books within a page or two, but the rest of the book is filled with stories and other “stuff” to sell us on the idea. Books are a great way to get some new ideas, but they do often have a bit of a one sided perspective to them.
Hi Matt. Hopefully only with some of them in the fitness field. I would think (and hope) there are also plenty that have great, solid information throughout. Regarding that kind of written infomercial, I’ve seen that in some business/marketing books as well (points definitely taken away for such!), though that was not an issue in the book I’m referring to in this article. Regarding your second paragraph, while I agree with that the main idea of a book can be stated quickly (actually, a main idea can often be stated within a sentence or two), I don’t necessarily agree with your statement that the rest is filled with “stuff” to sell us on the idea. In most of the books I read (and I read many great books) the stories and examples add much value and benefit to the teaching. Regarding the one-sided perspective…well, I think that’s fairly natural in that any “how-to” book does begin with a certain premise – something has worked for a person and they are sharing it with the reader. That is why we need to read discerningly. Not everything works for everyone, and not everyone’s style is duplicable. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Don’t be a stranger.
excellent thoughts….. good not only for readers but also for authors… agree it is reader’s responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff, but as a writer we shd also see that our writing shd nt be too influenced by our own experiences…..
Thank you, Gaurav. Yes, the responsibility goes both ways, indeed. As the reader, we can only control our end of the bargain. Of course, the same goes for the writer. 🙂 Thanks again!
Great post, Bob.
I always have to smirk when I hear someone tell me about the “absolute truths” they’ve read in a book (or watched on tv.) It tells me they haven’t’ reflected more carefully on the greater context. I always make it a point to read the reader comments after an article, even if they are scathing. If it’s wikipedia, I always do additional research before I adopt a certain position. In fact, one of my own mentors once asked us (as an exercise in leadership & team building) to have a full conversation with someone of an opposite opinion, and focus solely on their interpretation of that opinion, even if it completely contradicted our own. Maybe that would be a valuable lesson for the entire country right now…
Jo, as always, you make great points, my friend. Thank you for sharing!
Great post! I think another question to ask would be something like, ‘Does this apply to me?’ or ‘Will following this advice add value to my company/self?’
I have seen people who read new books all the time and try to change the company to match the new idea without considering if it will be an improvement over the last change.
I say take the great ideas and figure out how to blend them with what you already have and leave the ‘good’ ideas alone.
Jake, terrific points. I like those questions and would definitely add them to the list. Thank you, my friend!
I love to read and read a lof of books, each one usually for a reason. The question I always seek to answer is “Does it work for me when I apply it?”
Do I get the results I desire or that they say is possible.
A lot of books are based on life experiences, how about Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill or Dale Carnegie? But the bottom line is when you apply what they share, it works.
Even if the author is arrogant about their beliefs or information, if it works for me that’s great. The author can be as humble as ever if it does not work for me, it does not matter what their attitude is or what they are basing their beliefs on.
Yes, all excellent points, Edie! Thank you for sharing with us!
I always try to read books with a “filter” as to why it was written. Same thing with posts on social media, news reports and so on. Everyone has some type of bias when writing – the good authors tell the readers about it at the start! I tend to shy away from authors who seem to only be writing from a self-serving perspective. It’s clear when they are writing just to sell books, book speaking engagements and so on. It’s also very clear with authors who are truly writing because they have a desire to provide a service or be helpful…I definitely place you in this category!
Deb, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and for your very kind compliment. Much appreciated!
Excellent post, my friend. I agree the “magic” word is discernment. I learned this early on from reading different thesis and books in school. People can create ideologies/beliefs from their present experiences or environments and not necessarily truth or fact. Another question to add to your list: Is this their own statement or influenced by someone/something else? (This might be harder to decipher…). Keep up the terrific work!
Thank you, Chi Chi. Great points all the way around. Appreciate your sharing with us!
Interesting thoughts. I know sometimes when I find an author annoying or arrogant that is sometimes a signal to me that they are challenging my perceptions and so I need to pay extra special attention to what they are saying – maybe its something I need to hear but I’m resisting it.
On the other hand some writers are just irritating lol!!
Susan, I agree with you, and I do indeed force myself (with much effort, I’m afraid) 🙂 to ask if there is something within *their* annoying behavior that I perhaps relate to *myself.* LOL. Hmmmmm.
This was a timely post for me as I recently had a similar experience….I find what you said to be true in the self-development/personal development genre of books. Quite often, the author’s spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) have an immense impact on the writing and recommendations. Nothing wrong with that as it’s their book, right?
As a reader though, it can be easy to discount the book when you run into things that don’t jive with you, but I think it’s even better when you can simply filter and as you would say…take the wheat and leave the chaff. Why lose out on the 80-90% wheat? 😉
Thanks for the thoughtful post as always, my friend!
Hi Shae, I don’t think it’s just spiritual beliefs but any type of belief about anything they might have regarding life and “their truth” regarding the way life is and works. And, yes, it is their book and we are willingly buying it because we feel we will benefit from the information. And, yes I agree with your second paragraph completely. Use your filter and learn from all that really good wheat! LOL. Thank YOU for sharing, my friend!
LOL! I agree. My specific recent experience was related to spiritual beliefs, however I am 100% with you that it’s by no means limited to that. Great discussion!