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How Reading Books Saved My Life – Guest Post by John Chukwuma Anyasor

Today we have a guest post from John Chukwuma Anyasor.  John writes the personal development blog hiLife2b.  Always upbeat, very smart, and wise beyond his years, John is one of the brightest spots on the web.  Enjoy!

John Chukwuma Anyasor

John Chukwuma Anyasor

When most people hear the word ‘read’, or ‘library’, or ‘book’, three signals usually go off in their minds:

1) Boring

2) Boring

Or my personal favorite:

3) Who reads books anymore? I have a Kindle for that.

I think reading books has taken a backseat to other more popular forms of media (television, film, radio, and the internet).

Technology has come so far, in fact, that some us believe there’s no longer a point in reading books. I could just wait until the movie comes out, right?

What’s more, reading books may have taken a backseat to life itself.

These days, there’s too much going on in your life for you to pick up a good read. There’s just no time to read books. I’m too busy. I have a job to work, and kids to feed.

Big mistake

Let me tell you something – not reading books may be the worst mistake you could ever make. So much so in fact, that it could be life-threatening. Not a matter of life and death mind you, but a matter of just leisurely going through life and really living life to the fullest.

Let me explain.

The majority of people’s lives in a nutshell

You can go through life watching the local news, pretending to care about wars in other countries, tweeting to all your friends about your weekend, and remain in your little bubble. Anyone outside that reality wouldn’t notice you – and you wouldn’t notice them.

But when you pick up a book, you step outside your normal, everyday life. It’s not just about technology, reality TV, and work. You step into someone else’s world, experiencing their thoughts and their feelings.

I’ve read plenty of books that have moved me nearly to tears (at most, I got choked up a bit), and I’ve read books that I’ve laughed and laughed with.

I’ve read stories of romance that made me want to find my true love. I’ve read tales of adventure, endurance, and discovery that made me want to explore.

You’re not alone

Reading books has taught me that there are so many people in the world – each with their one unique story. I once believed that my story sucked. I mean, who would want to know about me?

It’s funny, because that’s what every author thinks before they publish their first book. Will they like what I write? Will people care? Can they relate? Does it matter that I’m (from whatever country, part of whatever ethnic group, and have whatever disability)?

And when the authors see people avidly reading their books, they realize that people can relate to them. Just like when you pick up a good book, you think to yourself, “Wow, I totally get what the author’s saying.”

You too have a story

Even outside the scope of books, most people think their own stories suck. Most of us read masterpieces written by those who have faced hardship and overcame it in an inspiring way, and wish we were like them.

What you don’t know is that the best stories are the ones that you yourself can truly connect with. As you read, you’re feeling the exact same feelings as the author.

Living life to the fullest entails experiencing as much of it as possible. Experience the pain of others, know their happiness, and feel their joy. Books give you the power to experience. For without books, how would we know the stories of others?

You could read blogs, but they’re not as in-depth as an entire book. You could watch someone document their life on video, but you can’t get a truly honest glimpse into their psyche.

Books serve to connect people’s thoughts, and that’s the deepest connection there is.

In a way, books have saved my life. They’ve shown me that I, too, have a story people want to hear. I’m not just another book on a rack – I am a bestseller.

That’s how reading saved my life. Books can save your life as well. You, too, have a story people want to hear. You’re not just another book on a rack – you are a bestseller.

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere.” – Jean Rhys

About the author: John Chukwuma Anyasor is a student at the University of Chicago.  Visit John on his blog, hiLife2b and on Twitter.


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  • Jay Schryer November 8, 2009, 8:56 am

    Hey John (and Josh),

    I love this. I like how you’ve made the point that everyone has a story to tell…and it’s a good one! I think people forget that sometimes, especially when they’re depressed or upset. When you get low like that, it’s hard to remember that you have an important part to play in the world, and that your story matters. So thanks for giving us all that reminder!

    I really love this quote:

    “Books serve to connect people’s thoughts, and that’s the deepest connection there is.”

    That’s truly an awesome insight!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 9:57 am

      All thanks to John. As to thoughts, I figure either everyone is special or nobody is. Either everyone has a memoir or nobody does.

      • John November 8, 2009, 10:38 am

        Hey Josh and Jay, thanks for having me here! I love reading books and blogs about other people’s lives. It shows that everyone’s life is unique and interesting. And there’s a lot more to all of us than meets the eye.

        Thanks again, Josh! I had no idea you were posting this early 🙂

  • Srinivas Rao November 8, 2009, 9:15 am

    Awesome guest post John. I read a ton of books during the time I was unemployed and they definitely helped me keep going with a smile. I Think we take all of it for granted and you have highlighted some of the major benefits to reading books.

  • Lori November 8, 2009, 11:12 am

    Hi John and Josh,
    Excellent guest post, John, and great choice of a guest, Josh! Everyone is a bestseller, you’re right on point. YES!

    When I formerly traveled for work (sometimes as much 3 round trips a week) one of my favorite aspects of that was the happenstance of meeting someone on a flight. The stories that can be told in a two – or three-hour fight! I was always humbled by the stories: a 94-yr old woman who grew up on San Francisco and remembered when her area of town was a cattle yard (OMG!), stories from an interior designer for private jets (a client flew him to his personal island), and a 12-yr old boy whose father was a medicine man in Arizona.

    I guess that’s a wordy way to say that what you said in this post has been on my mind, especially lately, and I was really happy to read your thoughts about this. I can’t wait to read a book about your life, John!
    Thanks for this post today.

    • John November 8, 2009, 11:54 am

      Hey Lori! It’s always a pleasure to have you.

      Yeah, I agree, sharing stories is choice. I remember last Friday, while everyone else was out partying (yes I know I’m a loser), my friends and I were just reminiscing about the past. What was even more interesting is that the four of us are all from different backgrounds (African-American, Iranian, Greek, and Caucasian). It was really nostagic.

      You’re welcome for the post. Catch you around the blogosphere, Lori! 🙂

  • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 8, 2009, 11:31 am

    Hey J and J….both awesome guys in one place….had to be a riot 🙂
    John Love the post..as usual 😉
    I have been an avid reader…and well I still love the feel of a good book in my hand..instead of a kindle 🙂 A book can make us go places we wouldnt normally go to in our everyday living..they make us dream, visualize, live the life of another in such a beautiful way…ahhh..see me all getting romantic about books 😉
    But, you really pointed it out so perfectly….each person has this awesome story to tell….infact my small secret is…whenever i ma in a public gathering…i often look at someone and try to think of what their story might be…its fun….and then when u actually speak to those people and hear their unique story…you do realize ..indeed we are all beautiful and special in our very own way…
    BUt seriously…when i got married and moved in with my hubby, he kept teasing me…”you have more boxes of books than all your other stuff put together!!!”

    Josh, awesome guest post choice….:)

    • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 11:45 am

      Zeenat, the last time I moved, I had 75 boxes of books. Most I will never open again. And yet, I can’t stop. Is there a rehab center for people like us?

      • John November 8, 2009, 12:07 pm

        Hey Zeenat, glad you could make it!

        I like that books are still close to your heart and are able to open your eyes to the hidden stories of others.

        You guys have more books than me! 75 BOXES?! Insane I tell you 🙂

        • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 8, 2009, 10:49 pm

          J and J, INsanity runs in us bookish folks with glasses and all 🙂 I refuse to go to rehab…refuse refuse..i dont have a problem…I just love the feel of my books so much….;)

          • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 11:02 pm

            Zeenat, speaking of the feel and smell of books, I once got a paper cut on my eye after buying a Mark Twain book. I was driving down the road, steering with my knees, sniffing the pages. It got away from me and a page corner cut my eye.

  • Tristan Lee November 8, 2009, 11:33 am

    Nice post John. I agree that although we can get knowledge available anywhere these days from technology (internet, kindle, etc.) reading paper books still gives us that old fashioned feel-good feeling that takes us away from technology.

    There is so many books on biographies on other people’s lives that it takes us away from our own setting and philosophies and forces us to acquire knowledge from a completely different person’s perspective.

    • John November 8, 2009, 11:58 am

      Hey Tristan, I’m happy you know where I’m coming from. Books simply just can’t be replaced if you want that good old fashioned feeling of reading.

      Happy reading, my friend!

  • BunnygotBlog November 8, 2009, 11:36 am

    Hi~
    I disagree people read about other people just because they want to be like them. I believe it is more the reader has a connection with character in the book. A common interest. Women and men who have been written about because they made history are our heroes and role models.
    They give us incentive to do things not wishful thinking.
    I don’t read so much anymore but I do enjoy reading quotes that I use for inspiration and retraining my path of thought. Similar to how a good book does when it has a solid message that lingers in your mind until you act on it. It is close to thought suggestion.
    You act on it or not.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 11:44 am

      Bunny, I actually agree with you. I find that I read more books about people I don’t want to be like. Not sure what that says about me, but I’m fascinated by people I seem to have nothing in common with, although it’s rare to find someone where there is literally zero common ground. Thanks for dropping by. Your interview with Katie was great!

      • John November 8, 2009, 11:49 am

        Hey Bunny, of course I agree that we don’t want be like the characters in a story. We just want to relate to them – you know, have that connection.

        Thanks for your insights 🙂

  • Daisy November 8, 2009, 11:50 am

    Rehab for book buyers? Mine is Paperbackswap.com. I trade my books for others. I still buy books; in fact, I’m more likely to buy new, now that I know the book will have a good second home. And third home. And so on, and so on, and so on.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 11:52 am

      Daisy, I’d never heard of that. Thanks.

      • John November 8, 2009, 11:55 am

        Yeah, that’s actually pretty awesome 🙂 First I’ve heard of it too.

  • Gayze November 8, 2009, 1:03 pm

    John, thanks so much for this post. I was a kid who spent every weather-worthy afternoon sitting in the crook of a tree with a bag full of books. My heart goes out to people who “aren’t in to reading” … they’re missing so much!

    • John November 9, 2009, 12:12 am

      I understand how you feel. My favorite books as a kid were EyeWitness Books. I was also a nerd for their dinosaur books (Anyasorus Rex was my nickname in middle school). But I don’t regret knowing everything I do about them.

      If you want to read, READ! A good story goes a long way…

  • Karina November 8, 2009, 4:58 pm

    Books!! Oh, how I could go on for hours! I’ve always loved books. Ever since I was little my nose was in any book that I could get my hand on. I recently moved to Tbilisi, Georgia from Canada and I took my whole collection of books with me. I’m only here for a few years, but I had to have my books – my whole wall of books. Perhaps I’m crazy (my fellow Canadians seem to think so) but I love being surrounded by books. I also re-read books, especially the ones that had a major impact on me. I think re-reading a book is wonderful, you often miss things the first time around.

    I can completely relate to what John’s message is – books can save your life, I know it saved mine in many ways. And I actually do hint at life and death situations.

    • John November 9, 2009, 12:14 am

      I’m loving your passion for reading, Karina. Keep on reading on!

      Books have really saved your life? In what ways? (You don’t have to divulge if it’s too personal…)

  • crestina November 8, 2009, 7:11 pm

    Few things can make me “drool”. Books top the list. I just go crazy about them. I can get by being alone all the time, as long as I have my books with me.

    Thanks Josh and John, for this great post.

    Keep it coming. 🙂

    Crestina

    • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 7:59 pm

      Crestina, have you read Born To Run?

      • crestina November 8, 2009, 8:02 pm

        Hi Josh, I haven’t read that book yet, though I heard about it. I would love to.

        • Josh Hanagarne November 8, 2009, 9:01 pm

          Crestina, it was hands down the best book I’ve read this year. Maybe in the last 5.

          • Lori November 8, 2009, 9:04 pm

            Hey cool people…sorry to bust in here…
            I’m 1/2 way into Born to Run and I agree with Josh. It’s been an incredible read! Go get it, Crestina! ; )

  • John November 8, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Well that’s definitely going on my list now 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion Josh and Lori!

  • John Bardos - JetSetCitizen November 9, 2009, 5:24 am

    Hey John,

    I definitely agree. Books are everything. Blog posts are a quick skim, but books are meant to be slowly absorbed. Most authors have spent months or years crafting and editing those words on the page. It is such an intimate connection. No blog post or website can come close to building that type of relationship.

    Besides, books smell and feel good! 🙂

    • John November 10, 2009, 6:33 pm

      Hey John, glad you could make it! These connections are what I love the most about books. Reading great books is like you’re going on a journey. When you reach the end, you feel as if you’ve somewhat known the author his/her whole life – at least in my case.

      Ah, book smell… that takes me back 🙂

  • Christa Avampato November 9, 2009, 5:35 am

    Hi John! I completely agree. Books and reading are so critical to the richness of our lives. I recently signed up to volunteer for a program in New York City called Learning Leaders. I am a book buddy to a 3rd grader at a public school in Queens. We’re reading Charlotte’s Web together and writing letters back and forth to one another. I’m hoping to help this little 3rd grader see how wonderful the world of reading is!

    All my best,
    Christa

    • Josh Hanagarne November 9, 2009, 8:44 am

      Christa, Fern from Charlotte’s Web was my first real serious crush. I wanted to be the piglet in the stroller.

  • Beth L. Gainer November 9, 2009, 7:32 am

    John,

    This is a beautifully written tribute to books. I totally agree that books teach you about being in others’ worlds. It’s important to step outside of ourselves and relate to another culture.

    I’m currently teaching a Humanities course, and that’s exactly the aim of it — to read literature worldwide and see what these authors are feeling and see their perspectives.

    Also, reading a lot will make us better writers. That’s another bonus of reading.

    • John November 9, 2009, 9:33 pm

      Hey Beth! Thank you for your kind words. Reading is one of my many guilty pleasures, and my writing has become better for it 🙂

      Where do you teach, by the way?

  • Heather November 9, 2009, 10:19 am

    John and Josh,

    Wow. . . just. . . .wow! Man, now I gotta add another blog to the roll! 🙂 Thank you, John, for making me feel less “useless” as a librarian who still orders (and reads) books. I hate those Kindle things. Blurry and cantankerous. You’d think as a cantankerous drinker I would appreciate this, and yet. . . and yet. . . . and yet I want to put a Kindle in someone’s hand while they’re in a tub, then make them drop it. Yes, this is someone I wouldn’t like much at all. Now see, with a BOOK there’s no electrocution risk! Thanks fellas! You’ve made my month!

  • Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 9, 2009, 2:39 pm

    I’m a little late to the party here, but thanks for reminding us all of the joys of reading books. My life would be so much smaller without that.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 9, 2009, 3:08 pm

      Patty, what have you read recently that you enjoyed? I don’t think I’ve pestered you before.

      • Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 10, 2009, 2:54 pm

        Hi Josh – Okay, I’ll bite. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

        Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
        Ten Year Nap, Meg Wolitzer
        Secret History, Donna Tartt
        Brightness Falls, Jay McInerny
        What Matters Most, James Hollis

        • Josh Hanagarne November 10, 2009, 3:55 pm

          Patty, you have a new adorer. I loved Middlesex and Secret History. Haven’t read the others but will do so.

          • Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 10, 2009, 4:17 pm

            Well, since you loved Middlesex and Secret History, then I am adoring you right back. And I’m always looking for book recommendations. So tell me more.

          • Josh Hanagarne November 10, 2009, 4:41 pm

            Patty, these have been a few of my favorites in the last 18 months or so (and always).

            The Terror by Dan Simmons
            Born to Run by Christopher McDougal
            Life of Pi by Yann Martel
            His Monkey Wife (can’t remember)
            The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
            Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
            A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

            Have you read any or all of these?

          • Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 11, 2009, 9:06 pm

            Josh, sorry, I got busy in the last 24 hours. But yes to Life of Pi and Catch 22, no to the others. Monkey Wife: funny title, and it caught my eye. I just discovered it’s on the shelf at my local library, so I’ll pick it up tomorrow. Also, another author I’ve enjoyed in the past year – Haven Kimmel – particularly Solace of Leaving Early and A Girl Named Zippy. Have you read her?

          • Josh Hanagarne November 11, 2009, 9:29 pm

            No, but my wife read it and loved it. I’ll check it out.

  • Lisis November 9, 2009, 2:49 pm

    John, I’ll keep this one uncharacteristically brief. This line spoke to the innermost depths of my soul:

    “You’re not just another book on a rack – you are a bestseller.”

    So many times I’ve talked myself out of writing a book because of exactly that… why be “just another book on a rack?” I may have to revisit that dream I once had. 🙂

    Thanks!

    • John November 9, 2009, 9:31 pm

      Hey Lisis! I like that line the best, actually. You should really write a book – I’m dead serious. You’ve been through so many experiences, and I’m sure everyone would be interested in reading about them. Take the popularity of your blog as a hint 😉

  • carla November 15, 2009, 12:53 am

    Sometimes its easy to downgrade yourself and think that you’re less than. Yes, I can read books by other people, but no one will care about my story. That’s the attitude/trap that’s too easy to fall into.

  • Yukirat November 28, 2010, 11:48 pm

    I know for a fact that books changed the course of my life. I donate money to the poor because of Mohammad Yunus’ book, Banker to the Poor. I empathize with the lives of both Palestinians and Jews caught in the conflict because of Thomas Friedmans’ From Beirut to Bethlehem. I majored in English because of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I succeeded as an editor despite no formal training because of Jack Hart’s A Writer’s Coach. And I quit a soulless job to pursue my dream career because of The Element by Ken Robinson. Books change minds and lives, and I am glad to have come across this post, albeit a year late.