Everything I Ever Learnt, I Learnt From Reading

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's what makes a good book. Sure, I haven't written any of my own any time lately but I sure have read a lot. Since my childhood, chock full of rows of hard earnt reading stickers, up until my University life, I have surrounded myself with the words and thoughts of other people. Because, you know, what better way to be opinionated than to mimic the thoughts of others? I practically made a career out of it whilst I was studying. But more on that later.

Books are things to which the majority of us have very personal relationships and it's more than likely that there is a text to which you attribute a significant growing moment in your life, the words of another somehow, inexplicably summarising how it was that you were feeling in a single moment. Authors have the uncanny (and often creepy) ability to shatter us to our wobbly cores, to pierce through all of the filters and shields and push the button inside of us we were desperately trying to hide from others. Each writer, of course, has their own niche subject and from the fictional words of others, we can learn countless life lessons. Read on then, friend, and bathe in the wisdom of these authors. Just make sure you take notes, lots of notes.

Paul Auster has written about a lot of things over the course of his writing career but time and again, it comes down to one thing: Language. Whether it's linguistic obsession, duplicitous speech or diaries filled with nonsense, Auster stresses time and again the importance of words. In his literary high point The New York Trilogy, Auster created a character so obsessed with the reality of words that he started to trace phrases of importance in his daily movements. The way that we express ourselves is so important to the way in which we interact in the world, spelling the difference between success and isolation. When we miscommunicate (especially online), we can become entrapped by the thing on which we rely so much in business.

Tom McCarthy has written about a similar sort of obsession, culminating in a beautiful, obsessive breakdown in Remainder. McCarthy's character was concerned continually with acting out the perfect scenario and finding the truth in the arbitrary actions which surrounded him. The book is both entirely alarming and sweepingly comforting; the search for perfection destroys the protagonist's reality yet somehow becomes completely addictive. An important lesson must be learnt, of course, and in Remainder's case, it is this: Whilst it is ok to want things to be a particular way, it should not be to the detriment of the act itself. Try to perfect things as much as possible, then let them go. They will flourish on their own.

Charles Dickens, meanwhile, has taught us about the strength of the underdog. When everything was pitted against his characters, it seemed laughable that they should find any sort of redemption. And yet find it they did. Dickens' novels presented the huge difference between the interior life of one person and the exterior life of another, revealing how the seemingly perfect lives of others represent nothing of what is happening to them inside. We should never try and compare the innermost things about ourselves with the best, exterior parts of others. It's a thankless task and, let's face it, who wants to feel needlessly bad about themselves all day? Not this girl. Everything is subject to change and you don't know what goes on behind closed doors. Sure, it's a cliché but it's also, undeniably, a good'un.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Bronte has shared invaluable lessons through the course of her work. Bronte's novels consistently featured strong, unequivocally "plain" (her words, not mine) and singular women at their helm. Despite their physical "ineptitude", they somehow managed to attract the attention of the opposite sex through things like personality, intelligence and inner strength. Huh. Bronte consistently championed relationships which, essentially, were equal and loving (although not always at first). Any connection - in business or otherwise - that we form and nurture should be based on the same ideologies. You owe it to yourself and to the person with whom you're connecting.

Lastly, finally, Don Delillo shared the importance of authenticity. Whilst the only consistency in his novels is their continually disparate themes, Delillo's works are always singularly his. Delillo knows his voice and he sticks to it and whilst it may not be to everyone's tastes, his core audience love him even more as a result of it. Don't be afraid to brand yourself and to create a fully formed personality. Your audience will be more likely to connect with a voice that speaks to them directly and consistently. If you don't connect with everyone out there, who cares? Your audience is out there and they are waiting to love you.

So there we have it. Who knew that literature could teach us so many life lessons?! All in the sneaky guise of escapism, too. We see what you did there, literature.

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