hy read? Many have told you that reading is very important, but judging by the very small number of people who read regularly, it seems that few are really aware of the benefits of reading. Since encouraging people to read more is one of the leitmotifs of my blog, I wanted to reflect on why each of us should read (more) by identifying 15 main benefits.
“Readers live a thousand lives before they die. Whoever never reads lives only one. ” – George RR Martin
- What to read? That’s why novels and short stories aren’t the only option …
- Why Reading Matters: 15 Benefits of Reading
- Reading allows you to acquire new knowledge and skills
- Reading will give you a huge competitive advantage over others
- Reading can make you more money
- Reading helps to reflect and analyze
- Reading is good for your health
- Reading reduces stress and increases peace of mind
- Read better your ability to concentrate and your level of attention
- Reading helps to express oneself better (both written and oral)
- Reading improves memory
- Reading makes life more interesting
- Reading is enjoyable and / or fun
- Reading helps to anticipate changes in the world
- Reading increases empathy towards others
- Reading helps you make decisions and achieve your goals
- Reading makes you smarter
- Conclusion: don’t ask yourself “why read” but why you don’t
WHAT TO READ? THAT’S WHY NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES AREN’T THE ONLY OPTION …
Before getting to the heart of the subject, I wanted to clarify that reading novels (perhaps the great classics) and fictional stories is not the only possibility we have. Indeed I believe that it is precisely this association between reading and fiction that leads many people away from books .
Let it be immediately clear: reading fiction books is wonderful and I can only recommend it to everyone. But only by reading essays and monographs can you take advantage of all the benefits of reading .
Essays and monographs? Yes, I know … these two terms are not exactly the best to define what in English are called n on fictional books, ie practical books dedicated to a specific topic (for example, personal growth books or biographies fall into this category ).
A good fiction book amuses and excites you. A good non-fiction book teaches you something useful to improve your life.
After this (I hope) necessary premise, let’s see what are the most important benefits of reading.
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WHY READING MATTERS: 15 BENEFITS OF READING
- READING ALLOWS YOU TO ACQUIRE NEW KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS
This is the most important reason of all: By reading non-fiction articles, essays and books, you will learn new things .
If you think about it today we have enormous luck: the best minds in the world spread their knowledge, skills and experience in books that we can obtain with absolute ease and at a very low cost (and often without even having to pay). This ease of access is an incredible opportunity, unfortunately not exploited by the majority of people. When I think about it, I am even tempted to question the real usefulness of university studies and graduation (to which I have dedicated so many years of my life).
“You wasted $ 150,000 on an education that you could have gotten at the public library by paying a $ 1.50 late penalty.” – Matt Damon (in the movie Will Hunting, rebel genius).
- READING WILL GIVE YOU A HUGE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE OVER OTHERS
6 out of 10 Italians declare that they don’t even read a book a year. This means that 60% of Italians (46 million people) do not read at all . Of the remaining 24 million people, only 45% read regularly (3 books a year). These are ISTAT data from 2017 (the most recent at the time of writing). I enjoyed calculating how many books the average Italian reads each year: 1.2 books (very little). The average rises if we focus on that 40% who claim to read at least one book a year: we are around 3.2 books every year in this case.
These figures sadden and cheer me up at the same time. They sadden me because I realize that too many people don’t take advantage of reading (I believe the world would be a better place if everyone read more and dedicated to their own personal growth). At the same time, the same data comfort me because it means that people like me who read a lot will always have an edge over the others.
In his best-seller “Sapiens – A brief history of humanity” , the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari he explains that before the industrial revolution, being rich meant having land. Later, the wealth shifted to machinery and factories. But in the current economy, according to Harari,being rich means having information and knowledge .
Well, reading regularly is the best way to acquire this information and knowledge and stand out from the crowd , especially in particularly competitive areas such as the labor market.
“You can be grasped whether you have read ten books or ten times the same book. Only those who never read books should be concerned. ” – Umberto Eco
- READING CAN MAKE YOU MORE MONEY
Warren Buffet , Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon). Behind these names we find some of the biggest financial fortunes in the world. Well these 3 highly successful characters have one thing in common: they read at least 2 books a month .
Of course, reading more won’t necessarily make you the new Bill Gates, but reading will certainly help improve your finances .
The easiest way is immediate and read financial education books that explain how to best manage your money (very valuable but very neglected skill).
Less immediately,reading and accumulating knowledge allows you to earn more in the long term . For example, you can ask for a raise at work (because you know more than others) or sell your knowledge to other people (who know less than you).
- READING HELPS TO REFLECT AND ANALYZE
There are numerous studies that show that reading increases our cognitive abilities and stimulates our analytical thinking. Reading a novel, for example, increases neural connections and stimulates the imagination1 . This happens when we try to solve a puzzle in a book or perhaps identify the culprit in a mystery story. It is a training for our brain that can be useful in other situations. Just like a muscle, our brain needs exercise and reading is arguably one of the best exercises for our mind.
Reading non-fiction books, on the other hand, helps us to compare our point of view with that of the author, stimulating reflection and analysis.
“Each book is a journey, and the only baggage we carry with us is the imagination.” – Fabrizio Caramagna
- READING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Yes, reading is good! First, reading helps you avoid neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and the like . According to a study published by Rush University Medical Center , adults who spend their free time practicing creative activities such as reading have a 32% slower cognitive decline than others.
Reading also helps us fall asleep more quickly : a small evening ritual that includes ten minutes of reading signals to our brain that it is time to sleep , thus allowing us to sleep more. A 2016 study conducted by the University of Liverpool he also found that reading can motivate us to take better care of our health.
- READING REDUCES STRESS AND INCREASES PEACE OF MIND
In 2006, the University of Sussex conducted a study on a group of volunteers with the aim of understanding whether our stress level can be reduced thanks to recreational activities such as going out for a walk, listening to some music or reading. . For 68% of the participants, the most effective activity to reduce stress turned out to be reading: even just 6 minutes of reading had beneficial effects on muscle tension and heartbeat.
Numerous other studies have confirmed that reading is an excellent anti-stress: to mention Dr. Josie Billington (University of Liverpool) who has devoted a great deal of research to the benefits of reading, highlighting in the study just mentioned that the38% of the participants indicated reading as the most effective remedy for stress . If you think about it, it seems quite logical because reading forces us to slow down and get out of the mad rush that dominates our daily life: a beneficial, useful and healthy break.
“I have never had a pain that an hour of reading has not dissipated.” –
- READ BETTER YOUR ABILITY TO CONCENTRATE AND YOUR LEVEL OF ATTENTION
As highlighted by Cal Porter in “Deep Work” , concentration and attention have become very rare commodities nowadays : constantly interrupted by notifications and external stimuli and “sick” of multi-tasking, many of us have become unable to focus on a single activity , dedicating the attention necessary to obtain high-level performance.
Reading is a great exercise to (re-) learn to focus on one activity , especially in the case of non-fiction books. These types of books involve active reading because they constantly push us to compare our point of view with that of the author. In his book“Mind change – Mental change. How digital technologies are leaving an imprint on our brains, ” neuroscientist Susan Greenfield explains that the internet has improved our short-term memory and our ability to multi-task, but at the expense of our attention. When we read a story , however, we do it in a linear way, analyzing the different sequences of the story to assemble them in a logical thread: this exercise helps us to increase the duration of our attention .
- READING HELPS TO EXPRESS ONESELF BETTER (BOTH WRITTEN AND ORAL)
I remember already in elementary school my Italian teacher told me that reading is important to learn to write . For a long time, my main motivation to read more was to improve my writing because I dreamed of becoming a journalist (a goal achieved during my university years). Reading a lot helps not only to improve one’s vocabulary but also to passively assimilate the syntactic structures of sentences . The consequence is a better ability to express both written and oral .
- READING IMPROVES MEMORY
Reading is also an excellent exercise for our working memory . As mentioned, the brain needs to be kept in constant exercise and reading is one of the most challenging activities, according to research by Ken Pugh , director of Haskins Laboratories. As we read about parts of the brain that have developed for other functions such as vision, language, and learning, they connect into specific neural circuits to read. This demanding mental activity keeps our brains trained and constantly fit (if we read regularly of course).
- READING MAKES LIFE MORE INTERESTING
Last year I was able to read one book a week and I noticed that my life has gotten a lot more interesting since I read so much . First advantage: when the conversation with someone stagnates or deviates on trivial and boring topics, I just need to talk about a book I have read to immediately relaunch the discussion and direct it in interesting directions.
The second advantage concerns all the ideas that readings can offer: a non- fiction book on a subject that we are passionate about can open up a world made up of new ideas and exciting themes . Third and final advantage: reading has the enormous power to make us escape. Sometimes I have a somewhat monotonous day: reading a few pages of a good book helped me to brighten a day that would otherwise have been rather gray.
- READING IS ENJOYABLE AND / OR FUN
To the question “Why reading?”, I would simply answer “because reading is good and pleasant” . A good book entertains us, captures us, interests us, stimulates us, helps us to reflect, teaches us something, makes us travel … can you say the same thing about a TV show or a visit on Facebook?
But yes, for many, reading is a corvée – one of those many other things that need to be done such as eating healthy and recycling. And I confess that for many years I have tried quite hard to read, especially since I saw my father devouring books after books. This strong example made me insist. Then one day I fell in love with reading and today I couldn’t spend a day without reading:it is a great fortune to love reading but it is a fortune that I have won .
“The best method for reading books is to follow the law of pleasure…” – Cesare Baccaria
- READING HELPS TO ANTICIPATE CHANGES IN THE WORLD
We live in a constantly changing world and like it or not we are forced to face these changes which are often revolutions. Just think of the introduction of computers or the internet in the world of work: at the beginning of my career I happened to discuss with fifty-year-old colleagues who seemed really upset by the impact that new technologies had had on their work.
How not to be caught unprepared? How to anticipate changes that could cost us our jobs? Simple: by reading more. Only by reading can you be informed in time and understand how to prepare for the changes and revolutions of the near or distant future that will not give you discounts .
- READING INCREASES EMPATHY TOWARDS OTHERS
When we read a novel we are led to put ourselves in the shoes of a character. According to research published in the journal Science2 , allows us to understand the mental conditions, desires and feelings of others, increasing our capacity for empathy.
- READING HELPS YOU MAKE DECISIONS AND ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Another great benefit of reading is the ability to make decisions . Many studies have shown that subjects who read are more capable of making decisions (thanks also to the exercise of analytical and cognitive skills). In a study by the University of Liverpool (which I have already mentioned), 27% of the participants were able to make an important decision about their life (e.g. quit a somewhat toxic relationship or start a new hobby), thanks to reading. On the other hand, 36% said that reading helped them make the goal of taking a journey a reality. All this leads us to conclude that reading can also play a role in achieving our goals(especially if we read books dedicated to productivity that deal with these issues).
- READING MAKES YOU SMARTER
The first and last reason mentioned in my list are in my opinion the most important and motivating. In fact, reading not only allows us to learn but also to become smarter! According to a study published in 20143 , reading allows you to achieve higher scores in intelligence tests. And it seems that the sooner you start reading the better: Early reading skills are in fact mentioned as a clue to higher intelligence later on.4 ..Without forgetting the beneficial effects of reading on verbal intelligence(which we have already talked about regarding the greater writing and expression skills of people who read).
CONCLUSION: DON’T ASK YOURSELF “WHY READ” BUT WHY YOU DON’T
I hope I have convinced you of the interest in reading. After seeing 15 different answers to the question “why is reading important?”, I really hope that you will stop asking yourself and begin to seriously wonder why you don’t or don’t do it enough.
Remember: reading will give you an edge and improve your life in many ways.
N on know what to read? start off my list with the best personal growth books – I’m sure these great books won’t let you down!