If the most direct path between point A and point B is a straight line, then the fastest way between you and knowledge is a book.

Millions of books have been written on a countless number of topics. Many books are the results of a lifetime of research by experts and reading them can save you time and keep you from “learning the hard way.” Reading widens your knowledge base and teaches from others’ experiences, all from the comfort of your own chair.

As a leader, reading can help you continue learning and developing professional skills, too.

And as a human being, reading in community can multiply those benefits.

Just Add People

Book clubs provide instant community. But Isn’t reading a solo sport, you ask? Well, yes, it is something you do by yourself. A book club, however, is done with people—hence the “club” part. Read by yourself, then get together and talk about it, cultivate ideas, hear new thoughts, build relationships, and learn from others’ perspectives.

Why, you ask? Because Tom Hanks in Castaway would have never survived without a volleyball named Wilson. He needed someone else to be there with him, sharing the experience. Even though technically he was completely alone. Okay, every analogy breaks down somewhere.

But seriously. Book clubs provide that kind of community—a group of fellow human beings sharing an experience. They’re usually more chatty (and more human!) than Wilson the volleyball, and they’d probably help you get off a deserted island if that’s what you needed.

So, other than reading to gain knowledge and a potential deserted island rescue, why would you join a book club? There are many reasons people don’t join book clubs, but those reasons are often based on inexperience, or a misunderstanding of a book club’s benefits.

Let’s dispel those misunderstandings and get you off that island.

Misunderstanding #1: I’m so busy; I don’t have time to read a book much less talk about it.

You may be a very busy person, we can’t argue that. But the reality is you make time for what you want to do. A book club is more than simply reading the book. A book club presents a valuable opportunity to learn professionally, build your leadership skills, and grow your network.

Misunderstanding #2: I’m a slow reader, I can’t get through a book on a schedule.

First, find a book club that works with your schedule. Book clubs vary from weekly to monthly to bi-monthly. Find one you feel comfortable committing to, and then build reading time into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule. And you might even find you enjoy that part of your day!

Misunderstanding #3: I have a hard time finishing books after I start them.

It can be difficult to establish a solid reading habit in the midst of life and work pressures. But professional development experts Gretchen Rubin and Jon Acuff affirm the power of community in professional growth and habits. Bottom line: groups are one of the best ways to form positive habits and get things done. The accountability a book club provides will help you start books and actually finish them.

Misunderstanding #4: I’m not good at talking in front of people I don’t know.

So you might get a little stage fright or feel awkward in a group setting. That’s okay! You’re only human. Here’s the good news: Book clubs are informal and are typically in a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a safe space for you to practice and become more comfortable and confident in professional discussions. Practice makes perfect, right?

Misunderstanding #5: I’m not sure I’ll have anything to say.

The beauty of a book club is you don’t always have to be the one talking. One of the reasons a book club can be so beneficial professionally is it provides time for you to cultivate listening skills and better understand diverse perspectives. In addition to reading a variety of topics and styles, you’ll be engaging in thoughtful discussion with those who think differently. And that’s an extremely important skill to have as a leader. Oh, and since you’ll read more deeply, knowing you’ll be engaging in discussion about it, you will have something to say.

So what are you waiting for? Join a book club to grow your network and develop your professional and personal leadership skills. You won’t regret it!

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And don’t worry—the odds of being stranded on a desert island as a result of being in a book club are extremely low.

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