I’m with Bowie- reading brings me joy. The first book I remember really loving was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. As the oldest of five girls, an avid reader, and with literary dreams of my own, I claimed irrepressible Jo March as my soul sister. Yes, reading helped form my sense of identity and place in the world. It’s one of the reasons I helped bring our grassroots library into existence- everyone deserves those moments in their lives. Moments that reveal connection, a sense of pattern, and yes, a little magic.
Beyond this, reading does so much more for our lives, our brains, and our relationships with others.
1. Reading reduces stress levels. Reading, like meditation, requires you to remain in the present moment. A good novel or nonfiction book focuses your brain and consciousness elsewhere. A study at the University of Sussex showed that it only takes six minutes of reading to slow heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.
2. Reading improves memory, and can even help slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper suggests readers, or those who put together puzzles or play games are up to 2.5% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. While reading, you have to remember lists of characters, events, etc. Each new memory creates a new pathway in the brain which assists short-term memory recall and stabilizes moods.
3. Reading improves focus and raises productivity levels. Contemporary studies are finding that we multi-task at risk to our ability to focus, complete work, and think creatively. Lifehack suggests reading for 15-20 minutes every day before you go into work to raise concentration levels. Scientists are now finding that spikes in neural networks while reading continue for as long as five days after a session with a book.
4. Reading traditional books before bed can help you sleep. In addition to stress relieving benefits, reading and other calm rituals at bedtime signal to the brain it’s time to sleep. But be aware- e-readers and computer screens have been shown to interfere with a good night’s sleep.
5. Reading improves your imagination, and imagination is important.
Reading can open your mind to what is possible not only in the realm of story, but in your personal life and endeavors as well.
Here are some suggested titles to choose from our selection:
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks
The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer