You Are What You Read

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect we should ask him what books he reads.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, but what about what you read?  If your physical makeup is determined by what you feed your body, shouldn’t we assume that your mental makeup is determined by what you feed your mind?

That notion will give a lot of us pause to figure out just what we’re cramming in there.  Are we living on a diet of TV alone?  Are we starving our brains by not feeding them with nourishing food?  Are we only feeding it one food group?

The fact is that books shape who we currently are and who we will become.  They shape how we think, give us new ideas, change our old ideas, and help us think critically.

The New York Times has a great quote: “today, as we supersize our burgers and abridge our books”.  The fact of the matter is that we aren’t reading enough.

A 2007 report by the National Endowment for the Arts studied American reading habits. It identifies who reads as the best predictor of who exercises, plays sports, volunteers, votes and stays out of jail.

So this tells me two things:  we need to read more and we need to read more diversely to live a healthy, balanced life.

When we eat healthy, it means that we eat adequately, but it also means that we eat a balanced meal.  We don’t only eat one type of food. We get the right balance of proteins, veggies, carbs, and fat.

Going off that reasoning, we should read newspapers to know about current events.  Fiction to expand our imagination and creativity.  Non-fiction to learn about history.  Business books to keep us sharp and innovative at work.  Finally, we should read what what stimulates us, because that’s what will give us the most benefit.  When we read something we love, it inspires us.  It’s the people with purpose around us that are charismatic, witty, and leaders.

What do you think?  Have you seen this in action in your own life?  How are you different when you’re reading and reading diversely?

“The man who does not read good books, has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
-Mark Twain

About zach

Staring out across the hazy mountain range on his latest summitting of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zach saw with a clearness he had not yet seen. "People should tremble at the very sound of my name", he thought. And it was so. "I should master the manly arts of the world, such as barehanded hunting and blacksmithing". And it was so. "People should call me Z$". And it was so.

Currently Reading

-The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
-Twitter for Good by Claire Diaz Ortiz


  1. this is very true and a very important concept. reading is not the only way to feed our brain, but it is probably the most important. i really noticed a change in who i was as a person when i started actively reading on a consistent basis. you could compare it also to “working out” your mind–though i’d contend that reading is more enjoyable than a grueling p90x session. you might not show immediate results, but it will really make a difference over time.

  2. And I notice (like exercise) that when I read consistently, I enjoying reading more often, have more stamina, and climax…. literarily… more often.

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