How often do you read?
I don’t mean newspapers, websites, newsletters, postal mail, email, textbooks, or anything related to your job. I’m also not talking about biographies, history books, self-improvement books, motivational books, and the like.
Reading provides stress relief. It engages your brain, which has been proven to increase vocabulary, attention spans, concentration, and reasoning skills. Using your brain actively has also been proven to prevent or delay certain debilitating conditions that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s. Reading enhances creativity and the ability of the brain to absorb and adapt to information.
In researching this on and off over the years, I’ve honestly never found a “downside” to reading.
Just as with pretty much everything that’s “good for you”, many people find reasons to not read. Some reasons at least feel reasonable (“I don’t have time to read”), but others are ridiculous (“My goldfish died/I couldn’t pick a book/I got a phone call I got a phone call when I was going to read”). People make excuses about why they don’t read because they know there’s really no good excuse.
Fiction isn’t a bad word!
I’m writing this to specifically encourage you to read Fiction. Don’t get me wrong – I think nonfiction is often excellent and worthwhile. It can be entertaining and can have a lot of benefits for you. I read plenty of nonfiction and I enjoy it.
All my life, reading has always been one of my favorite things to do. Novels and novellas are particular favorites. A well-told story has the power to whisk you away and deposit you into the minds, bodies, and lives of characters you meet within the pages of the book. Heroes and heroines, villains and villainesses, Vikings, aliens, time travelers, secret agents, small-town people, supernatural beings, shape-shifters, characters from nightmares, and characters right out of your best dreams… You can find all of them (and many more) in works of fiction.
A lot of things in life are difficult. Making reading a habit isn’t one of them.
You don’t need to quadruple the number of books you read every month or every year. Just set a personal goal to read at least a little more than you currently do. Here are some thoughts about how you can make that happen and reap the benefits.
1. Be open-minded about this. Look, if you haven’t read a fiction book since high school, it might feel weird to pick one up. And to pick one out! It’s perfectly reasonable to feel that way. I promise you that before you know it, awkwardness will be a thing of the past.
2. Commit to making a sincere effort. If you don’t truly intend to do this, you’ll find a thousand obstacles in your path because you’ll be seeking them. No matter what your reading goal is, you have to start with one book. Having trouble picking him just one? Write down a TBR list of books “to be read” so you don’t forget titles that interest you.
3. Read for pleasure, not out of obligation. A lot of things in life we read because we must. Read fiction because you want to. It may take experimentation to find out if your favorites are romance stories, romantic suspense, thrillers, cozy mysteries, science fiction, or something else. Try a variety of books until you find a genre that you love! And remember that you can always read another genre of fiction. Read where the mood takes you.
4. Read when you can, for as long as you can. Maybe you only read paperback books in the past. Or hardcovers. One of the best things about modern tech is that you can now read e-books on an e-reader, app, computer program, or other device. Reading in any of those ways allows you to carry thousands of books on a device as small as (or including) your mobile phone. Anywhere you are, you can have an e-book with you.
5. Don’t forget about audiobooks that you can listen to in your vehicle, on public transportation, and in countless other places. Audiobooks aren’t technically “reading” but I truly think you can count them as such for this purpose. Whatever form of fiction book you read, enjoy it at your own pace. It’s not a contest to see how quickly you can read a page or chapter. Enjoy your journey through the story.
6. Don’t hesitate to unplug, guard your time, and simplify. Most of us have lives filled with nonstop activity of one kind or another. Family stuff, work stuff, community stuff, checking email, writing and sending emails, checking social media, and dealing with one thing after another day after day. Take a breath. Take a minute and think about it. You deserve a few minutes for yourself each day. If you constantly give of yourself without ever replenishing yourself, eventually you’ll have nothing more to give. If you’re worried about taking an hour to read daily, just take 30 minutes. Or start with 15 minutes if that’s really all you think you can spare. But do it, and stick with it.
7. At a loss about all this? Just read.
We are masters at overthinking. Our lives are lived in a state of sensory overload, and when we encounter a bit of silence, we automatically try to fill it. Instead of queuing up a movie, TV show, music, or podcast, just read for a while. You’ll be glad you did.
Having trouble deciding what to read? Check out my other blog posts for information about the language of fictional book covers. I’ll soon be posting again about the easiest ways to find fiction books of interest to you. Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter so you won’t miss it!