There is a right time to read a book. A time when a book becomes a key for the mind, unlocking all manner of insight and avenues for further exploration. At such a time and with such a book reading becomes a truly revolutionary act, an act that makes rapid, gigantic and irreversible change in the reader.
You and I know the truth of this. We have read books that have changed our minds and changed our lives. Of equal truth is the opposite: there is a wrong time to read a book. A time when a book, far from illuminating, obscures the truth.
This raises a possibility. What if there were a book that was perfect for us at every moment in our lives? Wouldn’t that indicate a chance for a procession of constant insight? If we could read the right book at the right time, all the time, wouldn’t we be on a rapidly ascending elevator heading towards some sort of Enlightenment?
It seems far-fetched, but I suspect something approaching that is possible. The only problem is that it requires 1) the ability to decipher the difference between the right and the wrong book, 2) the willingness to stop reading the wrong books, and 3) access to a library containing all the books currently in existence.
1) is notoriously difficult. How long do we wait before deciding if a book is right or wrong? And don’t some books contain lagging insight that only becomes apparent years or decades later? 2) is simpler—we just have to break the habit of linear consumption and shake off the idea that we must finish that which we start. 3) is a resource that won’t be developed for a long time, if ever.
So, what to do? I think, at least in the beginning, the strategy is obvious. Read more books, but finish less of them.