The correlation between reading and success

Most people don’t start reading because they want to become successful. When we’re children, outcomes are the last thing on our minds. We simply engage in activities for their own sake, something we’d do well to remember as adults.

Fortunately, along with the sheer joy of reading, it also appears that there’s a strong link between reading and success, making it an essential activity for personal development. In this article, we’ll explore the evidence.

Reading statistics

Before we do that, let’s look at some reading stats:

  • 750.89 million books were printed book in 2020.
  • Children’s books contain 50% more rare words than are present in prime time television or college student’s conversation.
  • Book readers live almost 2 years longer than their non-reading counterparts.

The correlation between reading and success

It appears there’s a strong correlation between reading a success.

Let’s review the science on the topic:

“Per capita incomes are higher in countries where more adults reach the highest levels of literacy proficiency and fewer adults are at the lowest levels of literacy.”

According to this research on socio-economic inequalities in cognitive test scores at age 16,

“Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.”

According to an Oxford study,

“Reading books is the only out-of-school activity for 16-year-olds that is linked to getting a managerial or professional job in later life.”

Although potentially limited by a small sample size, shared reading provided evidence of:

“…five intrinsic benefits associated with Shared Reading: liveness, creative inarticulacy, the emotional, the personal and the group (or collective identity construction). Quantitative data additionally showed that the intervention is associated with enhancement of a sense of ‘Purpose in Life’.

As children, we’re heavily dependent on building our cognitive faculties through reading – and this clearly translates to future socioeconomic advantages.

Why does reading lead to success?

Avid readers are open to new opinions and insights – flexibility which translates to a more opportunistic mindset. Clearly, in a professional, or entrepreneurial context, this pays dividends.

Welcoming new ideas through the content we consume allows us to incorporate new suggestions and beliefs, allowing us to shift our worldview, for better results.

Books also provide important talking points that can be used to facilitate the exchange of ideas and connect with prominent people, helping us develop congruent social circles and beneficial workplace dynamics.

Books, by their very nature, have the added inspirational benefit, providing the motivating force and activation energy needed to change our behaviour and adopt more productive patterns of living.

Furthermore, depending on the type of material we consume, concrete knowledge is accrued. I distinctly remember reading ‘Mindfulness, Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ and gaining all the knowledge needed to start a life-changing daily meditation practice.

Other skills-based benefits of reading include an attribute that distinguishes many successful individuals – communication. Consuming copious books helps to improve our writing skills and diction, helping us to deconstruct complicated ideas and convey them clearly and succinctly.

Successful people know that such benefits are only one book away.

People who read a lot

Many of the world’s most successful people are avid readers. Perhaps the most notable is Bill Gates, who reads 50 books a year.

Warren Buffet, another of the richest men in the world, had the following advice:

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.”

His business partner, Charlie Munger, added,

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none.”

Mark Cuban, another billionaire is a self-confessed reading machine, spending 4-5 hours a day consuming content,

“A guy with little computer background could compete with far more experienced guys just because I put in the time to learn all I could. “Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage.”


  • “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry Truman
  • “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” Napoléon Bonaparte
  • “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss

Books successful people read

One thing I’m obsessed with is the books chosen by high performers. Part of this fuels the book recommendations I make on the site. Here are 5 of the top titles frequently listed by the world’s most successful people:

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
  • The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done By Peter Drucker

Reading for pleasure

Reading for pleasure is my main takeaway piece of advice.

For those that struggle with this, it might just be a matter of competence – to achieve the flow state that most readers enjoy, it’s simply a matter of practice to attain a comfortable reading level for our preferred material.

Start with genres and books you find particularly enjoyable, as I’m a huge proponent of the fact that fiction can provide just as much value as business books or biographies.

Over time, you can always start to include more non-fiction in your reading routine – perhaps you can even begin with summaries and slowly build up to reading full texts.

Although the effects won’t be instantaneous, over time you’ll experience the true value of your new reading habit.