“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”- Dr Seuss
Dr Seuss was one wise motherfucker.
Anyone who knows me or has read this blog probably realises it doesn’t take much to get me ranting and raving about how important reading is.
There are very few activities I feel have as much to offer as reading a book (depending on the book of course..not sure if there’s a whole lot of benefit in reading much of the modern romantic fantasy bandied about). There are positive correlations between time spent reading and income, social IQ, academic success, resistance to depression and even mathematics ability.
Instead of harping on any longer, I’ll give you 8 damn good reasons why reading benefits you..
Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. –P.J. O’Rourke
I don’t believe anything stimulates the mind the way reading does.
Particularly if you are reading an in-depth book or a topic that lies outside your current knowledge sphere, you are forced to stop regularly and consider the arguments and points of view that are presented to you. This promotes critical thinking, the act of digesting the information that has been presented and deliberating over how it fits into your world view.
I think this particularly applies to biographies.
Essentially, you are digesting a condensed version of a persons entire life, the experiences they’ve had, their successes, their short-comings and the lessons they’ve learnt. All this is passed on to you.
You have the ability to learn from some of the most incredible individuals throughout history, absorbing their wisdom as you read, often directly from their own thoughts.
In this way, you can be mentored by Bill Gates, Michael Jordan or Nelson Mandela, without ever actually meeting them.
The ability to spin a great yarn is a powerful attribute to hold. Whether it’s building relationships, impressing people at a party or telling the story of your life or business, quality storytelling will get you a long way in life. What better way to learn than from the masters- Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoyesvsky and Ernst Hemingway could certainly teach you a thing or two. Just study their works..
Your vocabulary expands as you read more, improving both your oral and written presentation. A larger word database allows you to get your message across much more effectively.
“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X
Very few have had the ability to tell a story the way Malcom X did..
Just like your legs and biceps, the brain is a muscle that requires stimulation for it to grow and expand.
When focused on a book, “parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging,” says Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, which is devoted to the science of language and affiliated with Yale. “A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain.”
It can also reduce or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia as we age: “More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline”, states a study published in Neurology.
The best cognitive activity? You guessed it.. time to read more.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin
Fiction authors are often some of the most observant people around. Diving into their work can provide valuable insights on human nature. It allows the reader to get inside the head of people from all walks of life, viewing the world from a different perspective.
Don’t know what it would be like living with a mental illness? Read Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
Want to understand how Richard Branson views the world? Read his biography: Losing My virginity.
“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” authors Kidd & Castano wrote in a report for Science magazine. Literary fiction in particular encourages ‘Theory of Mind’ “the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”
Fictional reading also promotes empathy.
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius
If you need to educate yourself in a specific area, reading is one of the best ways to do so (probably second to hands on experience). For example, if you are learning how to market your business effectively, read The 22 immutable laws of marketing. Books contain a more in-depth and comprehensive study than any other medium.
They are also great for general knowledge. A greater understanding of how the world is (e.g history, geography, economics, politics) will make a more well-rounded person and a much better conversationalist.It gives you a lot of confidence in making decisions when you have a more thorough understanding of how things work.
In these times of facebook news-feeds, the 24 hour news-cycle and the constant bombardment of marketers from ll diretions, our ability to concentrate for long stretches has declined significantly. We really are turning into the ADD generation.
Reading has the opposite effect.
Sitting down to read an in-depth non fiction or novel requires concentration, the ability to block out external stimuli to focus on the words in front of you. The next step is absorbing those words and forming them into cohesive thoughts. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of reading 1 page over and over and still having no idea what it actually says..
This one no doubt, will take some time. If you’re not used to channeling your focus for long periods of time, there will be an adjustment phase. You can’t expect to sit down and read War and Peace right off the bat.
A recent study at the University of Sussex suggest that reading for as little as 6 minutes can reduce stress levels by upto 68%.
I think this particularly applies to fiction, which takes you out of your own world and transports you into another. If you have a head full of thoughts buzzing around your head as you are trying to sleep, try reading a chapter of a novel. (This only applies to physical books. The light emitted from ebooks is not conductive to a sound sleep..)
Hopefully by now I have convinced you that reading benefits you in so many ways.
There’s plenty of recommendations on this site for what to read, including weekly reviews from my 52 Book Challenge. Maybe it’s something you will consider for yourself as next year’s resolution..