Reading is key to success of individuals, society

Michael J. Greenberg

Bill Gates is a ferocious reader. Even such a minor thing as his favorite weekly general interest news magazine, he reads from cover to cover, word by word. He says he does this in order not to lose touch with what is going on in our country and in the world.

Warren Buffett’s thick glasses are reminders to Berkshire owners of the five to 10 hours he invests in reading each day (weekends included!) He has been doing this since grade school, and he is turning 75 this August.

Charlie Munger the philanthropist reads more and acts more bookish than Buffett. Every time you hear him speak, his tone, mannerisms and facial expressions never fail to give you the impression that his mind is still buried deep in books.

Lou Simpson, the outstanding investment guru of Geico, whose investment results have paralleled those of Buffett’s, lives in semi-seclusion, thus staying away from the excitement of the stock market and allowing him to concentrate on reading and independent thinking.

When his schoolmates were playing during recess, Buffett was the kid who stayed on the sideline, reading.

Gates says reading is so important that he wants to make sure his kid learns about reading before any computing skills.

If you read carefully Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies or any other relevant and equally great history books on similar subjects, you will come to the conclusion that the competitive advantage of guns, germs, steel and horsemanship significantly boosted military prowess of many conquering empires.

But buried in these historical battleground accounts was the deciding role played by the power of the written word. The written word facilitated easy, fast and accurate recording of facts, enabling cultures possessing that exact skill to militarily overwhelm tribes that still relied on the ineffective and error-prone forms of communications.

Reading is an active form of learning. Your critical mind is at work, deciphering the information while you read, and if something doesn’t make sense, you stop. This contrasts with many other, sad to say more popular forms of learning, including watching television, listening to the radio and so on. Without active efforts on your part, they are bombarding your retinas, landing on your eardrums regardless. Needless to say, it’s much more common to see TV and radio audiences be misled or brainwashed than to see that negative effect on readers. Is it any wonder then that the biggest market mania of all time (that of the 1990s Internet stocks) coincided with the onslaught of so many financial news channels on TV and pseudo-professional investment analysis on radio?

Once Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, was asked by an investor where to find good financial information on great companies.

Value Line, he said.

The lazy guy went, but there were thousands of companies and thousands of pages this publication!

“Start from page one,” Buffett advised.

Michael J. Greenberg is a graduate student and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Editor’s note: Michael J. Greenberg is a pseudonym. He can be contacted through the editor at [email protected].