in Business, Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, Psychology, Science

Book Smarts – What Reading Can & Can’t Do For Us

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.”

-René Descartes

“How many books should you read to be in the top 90-99th percentile?”

My first thought was to ask “Of what?” but something stopped me. Instead of getting too specific I left it hanging while I pondered the following questions of myself:

1) How many books to be in the 90-99th percentile of book readers in the world?

I don’t know for sure, but the median a couple of years ago was something like 15 so let’s triple that and say 45. Hell, let’s say an even 100!

I remember Warren Buffett saying something about 500 pages/day but that just seem, well, excessive.

Actually, Buffett’s a pretty good example since he apparently spends around 80% of his time reading and thinking. So, there you go. He’s more than likely in the 99th percentile there.



2) How many books to be in the 90th-99th percentile in IQ?

Here it’s really about the amount of time you’re willing to spend, the quality of the books, how much they challenge your way of thinking etc.

By practicing how to think rather than what to think and understanding how to go through the creative process of finding the answers you might be able to raise your measured IQ.

While our potential IQ might be largely determined by genetics we don’t know what the potential is until we explore it.

IQ Distribution Graph

Dat sweet, sweet bell curve.

3) How many books to be in the 90th-99th percentile of successful people in the world?

Here no amount of reading will help you unless you actually do the work. We can philosophize and think all we want.

Actions trump ideas.

Even Warren Buffett (Again? Jeez, why don’t I just marry him already?) has to actually go out and do things in order to convert that knowledge into success.

Has he always been right? No. Has he managed to be more right than wrong? Probably.

If you want to gain insights into the minds of successful people then read their biographies but also know that there’s a lot of BS in them and that there was no “one defining moment” or action. It was a whole bunch of them strung together.

CD Wall

Ooooh, shiny!

I’ve read a lot of books in the last couple of years. This year I’m aiming at 101. So far I’ve read 68.

Now, I’m very lucky that I have the time and opportunity. Just because you can’t find the time or opportunities to do the same doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read as much as you can.

Look, even reading 1 book might put you ahead of everyone else. It creates a positive trajectory. If you start taking actions and coming up with ideas that lead your life forward, the book’s done its job. Reading 1000’s of others might not have done the same thing.

Goodreads - Zac Scy Book Stats

My stats on

1 is greater than 0.

It’s really about quality though, not quantity. Sure, the more books you read the more insights and ideas you’re exposed to but that doesn’t dictate whether or not you’ll be successful.

It’s just like buying another lottery ticket. You just increase your chances.

There are plenty of people out there who’ve not read a single book and instead listened to & observed their surroundings and learned everything that way instead.

Here’s a little selection of books I’ve found useful. Choose 3 of them and then go out and take steps to get closer to your goal. After you’ve taken action read 3 more and repeat.

Also, get on Goodreads to get more suggestions. Start interacting with people there, join bookclubs and build up your library.

Malcolm Gladwell – “Outliers” & “The Tipping Point”
Carol Dweck – “Mindset”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – “Flow”
Viktor E. Frankl – “Man’s Search for Meaning”
Robert Greene – “Mastery”
Simon Sinek – “Start With Why” & “Leaders Eat Last”
Brené Brown – “The Power of Vulnerability”
Daniel H. Pink – “Drive”
Austin Kleon – “Steal Like an Artist” & “Show Your Work”
Stephen Covey – “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
Walter Isaacson – “Steve Jobs”
Steven Pressfield – “Do the Work” & “The War of Art”
Randall Munroe – “What If”
Randy Pausch – “The Last Lecture”
Michael Gelb – “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”
Maxwell Maltz – “Psycho-Cybernetics”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb – “The Black Swan”
Susan Jeffers – “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”
Josh Kaufman – “The First 20 Hours” (read this to challenge the “10.000 hour rule”)
Shane Snow – “Smartcuts”
David Epstein – “The Sports Gene”
Edward De Bono – “Lateral Thinking”
Richard H. Smith – “The Joy of Pain”
David Feldman – “Supersurvivors”
Joshua Foer – “Moonwalking with Einstein”

What books have you read that changed your view of the world? Which ones confirmed your ideas and gave you confidence?

Let me know in the comments and hit me up on Twitter.

Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!



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