I have often wondered as to how seriously should one's reading habits be taken when it comes to making a tentative assessment of the depth of one's personality. It's a sensitive question on which I gravitate too easily on the side of quick and stern judgments before I find myself arresting such temptations. The hesitations result from the same organic fountainhead from which result all of my other hesitations. I believe that this complex chatter and argumentation is the accumulated result of a long chain of thought processes which has extended through many years and has been refined and molded by some of my own reading habits.
There is a certain period of time in everyone's life when they don't have to make conscious efforts to be interesting. They are young and enthusiastic about the world around them and there's a childlike curiosity which characterizes that time. This is a time which, while it is not known for the best of judgments and the greatest of insights, is nevertheless known for an easily accessible fountain of excitement and a sense of great adventure. However, life catches up much more quickly than one imagines it would and suddenly one is besotted by its practical considerations. It is at this critical juncture when I feel it becomes important to confront what sort of a person one would hope to become. Our personalities appear cumulative but they appear to show diminishing effects of more recent events. This is to say that we are liable to get frozen in a way of thinking and in our set of judgments as time progresses. There is a certain kind of philosophic comfort and some sense of safety in stagnation which perhaps encourages such stultification. However, I maintain that such a state of existence is an objectively ridiculous state because it prevents us from having new experiences for what they are worth and encourages us to judge others rather unfairly. It also makes us behave in petty ways because we come to think that our structures of thought, our creed, and our philosophies are worthy of protection and must be preserved. Before we realize, such narrow-mindedness closes in on us in ways and from directions which are surprisingly numerous and subtle. And we become rather sad shadows of our former selves with a monotonous and unchanging world-view lacking the excitement which is inherent in change and its acceptance.
Coming back to the original question, I feel that cultivating a reasonably complex reading habit tends to offset this degeneration. In a sense such a habit is not very different from cultivating other non-trivial talents which require patience, application, and dedication - they all instill very admirable values which are also very practical. But reading additionally/often requires the considerable application of the mental apparatus as well. It exposes one to the thinking of very accomplished thinkers across centuries and from around the world. It underlines the unity of the human experience and shows, embarrassingly clearly, the existence of an infinity of personalities and a multitude of thought processes. It lays bare the exciting spectrum of life, its humming and buzzing tune. It gives a much needed perspective to our own thought processes. Of course I am talking about a certain kind of reading material which unfortunately does not include easy literature like the American detective novel or genre novels which have become rather popular of late. They are merely entertainment and like all other entertainment there is a sinister side to them. The side which sucks up time and energy and the creative impulse and the side which induces us to think in very simple generalizations. In fact the side which is the very apparatus which accelerates the degeneration mentioned above.
I do think that the existence of a complex and respectable reading habit tells something rather definitive about the depth of one's thoughts. However, a lack thereof doesn't necessarily tell much because different people draw upon different aspects of their lives to develop their own understandings. There is, however, a sharp and an elitist demarcation to be drawn between easy and complex literature and it is a demarcation which I have absolutely no qualms in drawing.