I often think about what is the one thing that can cure all of the problems of the world. Sadly, there isn’t one thing that can fix all these challenges and difficulties we face. Too many people and the systems we rely on are too complicated. However, there are different ways to think about solving problems. One is how to raise the floor or how to raise the ceiling. In other words, help people survive or how to help them grow. And what I keep circling back to of all things is literacy.

Frederick Douglas taught how there are many forms of slavery and that literacy is the path to freedom. When he taught fellow slaves, he remarked, “Their minds had been starved…they had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them because it was the delight of my soul.”

I cried the first time I read that. To do something so meaningful without fanfare. To teach something that is such a game changer that many of us today take for granted. Indeed, the written word is one of humanity’s most important inventions. But things have changed.

According to Good Reader, “33% of high school graduates never read another book the rest of their lives, and 42% of college grads never read another book after college. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years and 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.”

That is alarming, to say the least. We just consume media differently today. Some good and a lot of it is just junk food. Sitting down, not being distracted, and taking the time to read 200 or 300 plus pages on one subject so you can a better idea of how something works, it’s magical. Reading illuminates dark corners in our lives. It can change the way we think and ultimately how we feel. Reading is freedom.

If you need a recommendation here is a list of my favorite game-changing books that I think everyone should read (in no particular order):

The War of Art
The Gift
The Design of Everyday Things
The Gifts of Imperfection
The Big Sort
The Infinite Game
Start with Why
What to do When it is Your Turn
The True Believer
Make Good Art
The Master Switch
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Life Inc.
On Anarchism
The Rock Warriors Way
Nonviolent Communication
The Tipping Point
The Red Queen
The Beginning of Infinity
Godel, Escher, Bach
On Immunity
The Last of the Omelas
The Art of Possibility
Thinking in Bets
When Things Fall Apart
Understanding Comics

Put down your phone. Take a break. Read! When is the last time something on Netflix or Twitter changed your mind anyway? These books, however, will change your life. Not bad for 12 bucks.