Why Books Still Matter

Naturally, as a book publisher, you would expect me to believe in the value of reading. But it is more than that. In fact, I got into book publishing because I was so committed to books as a tool for personal and cultural transformation.

A few months ago at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ben Carson, world-renowned Professor of Neurosurgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery, and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. Not bad for a child that was raised in extreme poverty by a single mother. Statistically speaking, he didn’t have a chance.

As a grade school student, he experienced difficulty academically, eventually falling to the bottom of his class. His mother, who was working two to three jobs, became alarmed. She did not want her two sons to drop out of school, believing that education was the only way they would escape a life of poverty.

She began to notice that the wealthy families she worked for watched little television. Instead, they spent their time reading books. As a result, she sold her television and insisted her sons read two library books a week, writing a book report on each one. She would then review the reports, make marks on them, and assign two more books. Several years later, to his surprise, Dr. Carson discovered that his mother couldn’t even read.

In the interview, Dr. Carson said to me, “Everything changed when I began to read. I started to see myself as a smart person who could learn anything. The whole world opened up to me.”

Indeed it did. This is the power of reading books.

Contrary to what is often reported in the mainstream media, books are not dead. They are still valuable today. But we must contend for their existence against all other forms of media. Books do for people what movies, television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and social media will never do—fundamentally alter their worldview and inspire them to greatness.

I rarely meet a person who says, “that movie changed my life.” Or, “your blog post transformed me.” I’m not diminishing either of these. Both of their place in inspiring, educating, and entertaining others.

But there is just something about a book that changes everything. I have met thousands of people through the years who have reported, “That book changed my life.” I can certainly point to the books that have shaped my own life. In fact, we can point to specific books throughout history that have changed entire civilizations.

Watch my interview with Dr. Carson and see for yourself how books made a difference in his life. I hope this video once again inspire you to the potential and power of long-form reading. There is a lot at stake.

By the way, if you haven’t made plans to participate in this year’s Chick-fil-A Leadercast, you need to give it serious consideration. I will be once again hosting the backstage interviews with people like John Maxwell, Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson, Mack Brown, Robin Roberts, Muhtar Kent, and Dave Ramsey. You can either attend in person in Atlanta or host a simulcast of the event at your business or church.

Questions: How have books transformed your life? What books in particular have made a difference? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/louise.gibney.writer Louise

    Hi – Great post – the power of reading books shouldn’t be dismissed!
    Do you mind if I link to this blog on my Facebook writer’s page?ThanksLouise Gibneywww.facebook.com/louise.gibney.writer

  • http://twitter.com/Juanbg Juan

    Great story, I relate Dr. Carson coming from a very poor Mexico’s farm town, the only way to get out of the extreme proverty has been thru reading books. I read everything that came accross my hands, just for the sake of learning.  Nowdays I am still an aavid reader, technology makes it easier, specially when you travel.  Great stuff keep it coming…

  • Jackie Brewton

    Wonderful interview. Is there any way to get a copy of this so that I can use clips with students to show them the power of reading? I’m not always presenting in a location that has an internet connection or I’d just show it from this web site.  

  • Anonymous

    I was just telling a friend today about how books were one of the biggest influences in helping me own my faith.
    Here are some of my favorite books:

    Safely Home (Randy Alcorn)
    The Singer (Calvin Miller)
    Radical (David Platt)
    Take The Risk (Ben Carson)
    Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan)
    God’s Outrageous Claims (Lee Strobel)
    Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers)
    The Principle of The Path (Andy Stanley)
    Becoming A Contagious Christian (Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg)
    A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
    Weird (Craig Groeschel)
    Lord Foulgrin’s Letters (Randy Alcorn)
    The Grace & Truth Paradox (Randy Alcorn)
    Letters From A Skeptic (Gregory Boyd)

    You might like my recent guest post on Guy Chmieleski’s blog, Faith ON Campus. The article is entitled, “5 Reasons To Start A Student Library” http://faithoncampus.com/5-reasons-to-start-a-student-library/

  • Allison

    Given the best book of all time the Bible that is my life guide to life.  But, if I had to pick the another one that has been the a very profound effect on my life would be the Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

  • Ldgardner

    When reading my book to 5th graders during Read Across America Week, I asked, “How many readers do we have – those who read by flashlight after lights out at home or who sneak a book to finish reading during Math class? I was delightfully surprised at the number who shyly raised their hands (including one teacher).  Thanks for what you do to promote reading. Lillian Gardner

  • YapTGing

    A memoir about Iris Chang, the writer of ‘Rape of Nanking’. It was written by her mother, very touching and intimate account of her beloved daughter. I’ve felt Iris’ will and courage throughout the pages, her determination to expose a great atrocity to the world. There are some warm moments shared between mother and daughter and I’ve learnt a little more about Iris beyond her fame and external persona. To me, she has demonstrated what a writer can do beyond entertaining and sharing little hindsight to life. She has shown that writers can reveal truth, no matter how dark it is. This memoir inspired me to continue writing and stop dawdling about. 

  • Dr Mari

    Dr Carson is an inspiring man of God. I had the privilege of hearing him speak to a group of doctors a few years ago. His words encouraged and strengthened me as a Christian caregiver. I wrote about it briefly in my soon-to-be-published book, Walking with Jesus in Healthcare. His books (Think Big, Take the Risk, Gifted Hands) are wonderful, and he provides one of the most intelligent arguments for creation vs. evolution I’ve ever read.

    Books change lives, and he’s a living example of that! Thanks for a great interview, Michael.

  • Theallenfam09

    Great article on books. This might as well have been my story. The one book that transformed my life was The 360 Degree Leader, by John Maxwell. I learned so much from this book, but the key take-away was that at different points in my leadership journey I will have to re-evaluate the landscape that I find myself facing. Overall relevancy matters.

  • poodles

    Life and Death in Shanghai, because until that time I never realized how a country could become communist. It is a personal story of baby steps towards communism until one day, the author, awoken to an army of youth stripping away her possesions and burning them in the street. At the same time the educated people were imprisoned or disappeared. It should be mandatory reading for people who believe, “It can’t happen here.”

  • http://twitter.com/KimunyaMugo Kimunya Mugo

    Awesome, just plain awesome! I have been fascinated by books and reading all my life. At first, it was to escape the poverty that reigned in our home. We had no electricity or TV at home. The transistor radio used dry-cell batteries that were so inefficient and kept on running out. With hardly any money to replace them when they ran out, I would place them out in the sun for the heat to catalyze any ‘remaining’ chemicals into some little more ‘airtime’.

    As I ate an otherwise unappetizing meal of boiled maize and beans garnished with a little sodium chloride (aka table salt), I would read about scrumptious meals in dog-eared 5th-generation copies of Enid Blyon’s “Famous Five” series. These books took me on journeys only existent in my wildest dreams.

    I have read Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands” many times. My 7-year old daughter has read it cover to cover over 5 times in the last year. She’s fascinated by this man who overcame a lot of obstacles to do good. Our home is full of books, we have read for our three kids from when they were in their mom’s belly. Now, we can’t keep them off books. When snacking, the second thing they reach for other than their snack is a book. Our 5-yr old boy is reading fluently, his 3-yr old sister has demanded to be taught how to read.

    I can’t wait to get home to share this interview with the rest of my family. Thanks Michael for your dedicated work, and thanks Dr. Carson for the inspiration you are thousands of miles away. God bless ya’ll!

  • Guest

    My mother has seven children. When we were growing up, we did not have as many material items as other children, but what we did have was a library full of books available to us. During the summer, we would walk to the library and check out as many books as we could. Sometimes, I would have six books at a time by myself, and we would have to go back to the library less than a week later for more. Reading truly is fundamental, it opens you to new worlds, and it expands your mind. I believe reading was key to us because as children we were very thirsty for knowledge. Now, all seven of us can say we have college degrees. A few of us have two, and we each serve in a profession that continues to challenge and fulfill that thirst for knowledge.

  • brandonstarnes

    I would have to say the Bible has had the most impact on my life. I love this story I first came aware of Dr. Ben Carson from the movie that was done. To be honest growing up I hated reading but loved movies. If I had the same passion to read as I do for movies that would be a different story. It’s amazing the power that comes from reading he is a great testimony to that.

    2. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
    3. Biography of George Mueler

  • http://www.medicalaccountsolutions.com Misty Gilbert

    Michael, I absolutely LOVED this video interview!!! Awesome. I love books and there are so many reasons why. I try the eBooks, but I lose heart. I do some Audio Books but am only successful with this if I am literally stuck in the car and can not read one with my eyes. LOL!!!

    Yes, several books have transformed my life. This year, Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn was an incredible moving book for me! I have had others that have just rocked my world. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson was one. Fearless by Max Lucado was one.

    BTW: I received word last week through the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership Tribe I am apart of that the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast is no longer an affiliate of John Maxwell and that he is not speaking there this year. I am now questioning that this is true by what you have said. I have attended the last 3 years via simulcast and it is a highlight of my year!!! I truly hope you are right and the word out on this Facebook Forum is wrong.

    Keep up with the great work! You are an encouragement.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, that is correct about Leadercast. It looks like John Maxwell is not speaking this year. I am not involved either. I am confident, however, that it will be a great event.