When was the last time you read a book and discussed it in detail with others? Reading can be enormously valuable, giving you new ideas, perspectives, and information, but discussing what you read with others who are reading the same material can greatly enhance the rewards. The discussion can help you clarify your understanding, find details you may have overlooked, and help you better integrate what you’ve learned.
After I graduated college and no longer had assigned readings, I didn’t want to get out of the habit of reading and expanding my knowledge. So I decided to join a virtual reading group discussing Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. The group discussed a section of the book each week over Zoom. It was challenging, friendly, edifying—and I loved it.
That was just the beginning; I have since completed three books with similar groups. I now lead a group discussing Ayn Rand’s Return of the Primitive and participate in a study group on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. These groups have been enormously life-enhancing for me and others. Here are just five of the benefits I’ve noticed:
- Reading Regularly
Most reading groups will expect you to read a certain amount within a certain time frame (every week, for example). These deadlines keep you accountable, encouraging you to read regularly and progress steadily through books, without causing too much stress.
- Deeper Understanding of the Text
Being able to discuss the reading with a group of other bright people is invaluable for tricky philosophic texts. Sometimes the others on the call may understand a point you didn’t quite grasp, or have relevant knowledge that makes the text easier to understand. Even for more straightforward books, thorough discussions can lead to unexpected insights.
- Clearer Thinking
Discussing the texts out loud with active-minded people requires you to clearly articulate your thoughts. The practice of doing this week after week, sometimes on complicated philosophic or political topics, has massively improved my ability to communicate clearly about ideas.
I’ve developed friendships with people from all over the world through regular discussions of books we’re all interested in and familiar with. We’ve developed a bank of shared opinions, knowledge of each others’ circumstances and views, and deeper mutual respect.
Because these groups are casual and voluntary, they attract people with similar interests, which fosters a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere, filled with smiles and laughter. Whenever I have a meeting, it’s likely to be the highlight of my day.
Want to join a reading group yourself? OSI has an opportunity for you. On January 24, we’ll be starting a reading group on The Fountainhead, led by Rand scholar Dr. Andrew Bernstein. Learn more and register here.