20 Reasons to Become an Avid Reader

by STEVE BLOOM

reading

It always surprises me when I meet someone who tells me they never read.  Usually they say the last book they read was in college or they mention a book they started several years ago, but never finished.

Apparently there are a lot of people out there like that.  According to a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll of American adults, it found that 28% had not read a single book over the past year.

With so many other things occupying our time – movies, video games and other media – it can be hard to fit in any reading time.

But it’s important to make time for reading.  If you don’t read, you miss out on a lot great benefits.

1. It boosts imagination and creativity

Think back to when you were a little kid and you read stories about outrageous adventures and fantastic places.  These stories were imaginative and creative areas for our minds to play around.

When we read, we have to give life to the words that are written.  We have to re-imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the story.  All that work flexes the imaginative and creative sides of our brains in ways we don’t get other places.

2. Enhanced intelligence

Despite all the technological advancements over the past few decades, reading remains the best way to learn and retain information.

Those who read the most usually have the most smarts.  They’ve spent time filling their heads with information and facts that others simply don’t have access to.

3. Readers are sexy

According to this study, women found intelligent guys sexier than those with an average intelligence.  In fact, intelligence was rated as one of the most sought after qualities women look for in men according to another study.  So for all those single guys out there, it can pay to pick up a book once in a while.

4. Reading can change your life

Some books have the power to change your life in ways you often don’t expect.

Personally speaking, books like The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies or Flowers for Algernon made me look at the world in different ways.

These books connected with me on a deep level.  They got inside me and changed who I am.

That’s the power of reading.  It can give you a journey into yourself just as much as the journey in the story.  And like many journeys, you’re never the same afterwards.

5. Improves empathy

It can be hard to sit down and imagine someone else’s life – especially if their world is radically different from your own.

Reading is a great way to get inside their head and find out what their thoughts and feelings are.  That’s why it helps you build empathy according to one recent study.

Instead of living an insular life where you can only see things from your own viewpoint, you can open up to what others see.

6. Learning wisdom

Every time you read, you fill your head with knowledge, facts, opinions and stories.  Reading is like a delivery system for information.

With all that information, you can also gain wisdom.  When people write about their life lessons, stories or experiences, you gain a little insight into how the world works.  You become wiser.

7. Self-improvement

The more you read, the bigger you vocabulary is.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  After all, you’re exposing yourself to more words, and inevitably you’ll fit them into your daily life.

Good readers are also good writers.  All successful writers will tell you that in order to improve your writing skills, you need to read every day.

More than that, reading can improve confidence.  That can aid you in many areas of life such as social relationships and career advancement.

8. Better thinking skills

It has been shown in this paper that reading enhances analytical thinking.  People who read can spot patterns more quickly than those who don’t read.

It keeps your brain sharper and strengthens synapses with each new memory.  In other words, your brain become stronger and quicker because you read.

9. Improved focus and concentration

Most of us are used to multitasking.  We’ve learned to divide our attention between TV, the internet, twitter, texting and an assortment of other things.  But that takes a toll on our ability to focus and concentrate.

Reading a book improves your ability to focus and concentrate.  A book demands your full attention because if you don’t give it everything, you become lost and confused.

10. You become more likely to succeed

It’s not impossible to find successful people who don’t read.  It’s just really hard.

Think about famous scientists, businessmen, writers and politicians.  If there’s a common activity they all share, it is reading.

People who read regularly are more likely to be engaged with the world.  According to this paper from the National Endowment for the Arts, people who frequently read are more likely to be engaged civically and culturally.

11. Idea generation

Ideas are powerful.  Scientific and technological advancements are based on them.  Diseases and world problems are solved with them.  Ideas can even change our lives.

When you read, you constantly expose yourself to new thoughts.  With all those thoughts swirling around your head, you might go and create an amazing idea of your own.

12. It helps you prioritize goals

Reading opens you up to new worlds of possibility.  You might read about new adventures or ways of living – things you never thought about doing.

Reading can make you question what you want and re-prioritize your goals.  You may realize you want something you never considered before.

13. You live multiple lives

Non-readers live only one life: their own.  Readers have access to many more lives through biographies and fiction.  You get to experience everything they do, feel what they feel and live their lives through their eyes.

The experiences we have in life can guide us and make us stronger and wiser.  If you only live your own life, you’re missing out on all the lessons other people have learned.

14. Better mental health

Just like any other muscle in the body, your brain needs exercise to keep strong and healthy.  Studies have shown that mental activities like reading can slow down the progress (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Those who read also experience slower memory loss and mental decline later in life compared to those who don’t read.

15. Better physical health

Reading is something you usually do in silence away from others.  When you’re engrossed in a good book or story, you get into a meditative state of mind.

That can be really relaxing and calming.  As a result, people who read often have lower blood pressure.  It’s also been shown to reduce stress and help people suffering from mood disorders.

16. You learn about far-away places

Travel is the best way to learn about other peoples and cultures, but reading comes a close second.  It can open a whole new world to you and take you deep into another culture.

There’s a huge world out there beyond your doorstep.  People may be living completely different lives in fascinating cultures.  There is a lot to learn about how people live all over the globe.

17. It gives you things to talk about

As you expose yourself to new topics, stories and opinion, you find that your ability to start conversations becomes easier.  After all, you’re giving yourself a steady source of material to talk about.

18. Discover yourself

Have you ever heard of the expression “losing yourself in a book”?  There’s a reason we say that.  Reading is an active process where you get deeply involved and invested in what you’re reading.

You can learn a lot about yourself through reading.  For instance, if you read fiction, you can ask yourself what you would do in that situation.  The answer might just surprise you.

19. Broaden your awareness

If you don’t read, your world is small.  You don’t know all the things that are happening all around you.  You might not even realize that you’re missing anything at all.

Reading opens you up to just how big the world really is.  People are doing fantastic and amazing things all the time.

There are many topics I know nothing about.  When I read about them, I’m shedding light onto darkness.  It’s like I’m lifting a veil of ignorance away from my eyes and noticing just how little I knew before.

20. There’s no reason not to read

Thousands of books get published every month.  Add to that all the blog posts and magazine articles that are out there and you should always be able to find something great to read.

More than that, it’s never been easier to be a reader.  Libraries are everywhere – and they’re free.  Plus, many are starting to lend out digital copies which would mean you don’t even need to go to a library anymore.

With all the benefits listed in this post, there is no reason not to read.
photo credit: Rach

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Comments

  1. I love this! Yes, yes, yes, yes (x15 more) and yes!

  2. Great list! Reading books is so important.It allows us to become better and move toward our potential. I’ve been able to be promoted and raise my leadership presence by reading good books. Thanks for an amazing post!

  3. Your list is spot on, Steve. I couldn’t have put it better myself. And the part about reading being sexy? Completely true. One of the things that first attracted me to my husband was the fact that he knew the book Waiting for Godot and could talk about it intelligently. We have and talking about things we read ever since.

    • Oh, that’s a good book; I’ve read it a couple of times. It’s funny that you say that about your husband. My wife has told me many times that one of the reasons she first went out with me was because I read a lot.

  4. Steve! This post begs the question of why items such as “movies, video games and other media” are taking any of our time at all. Books help me question my own silly thoughts which may be why some people do not read. It is mighty comforting, or shall I say convenient, to not have to question your thoughts or beliefs. Challenging myself with the thoughts of superior thinkers has helped me grow the eff up. Great post, Steve!!!

    • Reading helps me question things too which can be uncomfortable for some people. Sometimes we’d just rather reaffirm what we already believe. Still, there’s a lot of value you can get by challenging your thoughts and beliefs. That’s how you grow and learn.

  5. Steve,

    #3 Readers are Sexy! YEEESSSS!!! -I have to explain to my girlfriend how much sexier I am now. She deserves to know!

    Seriously though, I come from a family of readers, so this is one thing I have never had to force myself to do.

    Like you I am shocked when people tell me that they haven’t read in years. I almost feel like they are missing out on an important part of life. Like being colorblind or having no sense of smell.

    I feel bad for non-readers.

    Great list, and great reasons.

    -Steve

    • Yes, I feel like they’re missing out on an important part of life too. It’s like they’re cutting themselves out of all these wonderful experiences that you can get from reading.

      I also came from a family of readers. My parents had a big library of books and I became curious about them. That was when my love for reading was born.

  6. Steve, I could comment on so many!!! Ahhh…how to pick?

    Ok, reading is sexy! When CJ and I met, in our early/mid 20s, we were not reading…what losers. I rediscovered my love of reading when CJ bought me Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier for Christmas one year. I loved it so much that I have gobbled up hundreds of novels since. Now we enjoy reading the same books and having our own book club of two. We also enjoy a book club of three with our friend who loves classics like we do.

    Currently we are reading Walden which delights and tickles us. We have tacked Beckett together and enjoyed Franzen, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie and so many others. Just today I picked up Roald Dahl’s short story collection. I read a few pages in a parking lot while waiting for CJ, and the man is a devilish one.

    I’m not sure how I would fare without books. I happily rid myself of a TV, but I would fight to the death for my books. Tee hee!

    Hope your next novel pops your brain!

    • That’s a great reading list. I’ve read a couple of those authors before and there’s some great stuff there.

      Isn’t it fun when you can read a book with someone? My wife and I do that a lot – especially when we’re traveling. We’ll pick up a book and pass it back and forth until we’re both done. It’s a great way to pass a long bus or plane ride. We whipped through all the Hunger Games books that way. Plus, it gives us stuff to talk about when we’re all done. It’s something we look forward to.

  7. I am always amazed at the ability of symbols on a page to transport me into different places. Getting lost in a book is one of the sensations I enjoy most. Even though part of me still knows where I was seated when reading certain books, once I’m in the pages, the “real” world goes away. To me it is much more powerful than the suspension of disbelief that comes with a movie, maybe because my mind has to be so much more involved.

    While I have always enjoyed reading, there have been many periods in my life where I’d read only a couple books in a year. This year I’m taking part of the GoodRead challenge. I set the goal of 26 books, and I’m well on target to reach it (I’ve surpassed it if I count books on tape, which I’m not sure if I will count or not).

    As you said books provide us with a glimpse into a world not our own. Who wouldn’t want to take that trip?

    • Books are a great escape. I kind of feel as if I get into a meditative state when I’m engrossed in a great book. I forget about the outside world and just dive right into the fictional one. Once I come back though I’m refreshed and ready to go out into the world. I feel it’s good for the mind and the soul.

  8. I think it’s one of the best ways to relax Ijust avoid tense thrillers!).

  9. There is no substitute for reading. It provides such a crazy amount of value for life.

    I’ve definitely found that your point about improved concentration and focus is the biggest thing in my life. It’s not often that we are truly present in the moment. Most people are either escaping through television and the internet or they are escaping by thinking about the past and the future.

    Reading books forces you to be present in the moment. It’s almost like it’s own form of meditation which is something Tammy Renzi from Hoombah has talked about before.

    • I think I read that the average attention span has been steadily decreasing over the past few years. I wish that more people would read to turn that trend back. A good attention span can be really beneficial.

  10. I cannot begin to imagine life without reading. I learn so much and gain so much encouragement.

    The turning point for me was when I learned that I could read what I wanted and enjoyed – not what teachers or others thought I should read.

    If you’re interested in something, read about it. If you’re not, don’t waste your time – move on to something you love!

    • I think my early turning point was when a teacher made me read something I truly loved. It was Where the Red Fern Grows and it was the first book that truly touched me and made me feel alive. That’s when I realized the power books had. That’s when I knew you could love a book.

  11. No doubt about it, Steve. Reading is critical to living a fulfilling life. Reading, as you’ve pointed out, helps us stay informed, creative and fulfilled. It also helps us learn things or helps us change our mindset and our perspective of the world.

    I have two additional thoughts – reading fewer books so we can really absorb the material. So going for the quality of the books as opposed to quantity. And 2 – audio books – I’ve read so many more books this way on long commutes. ANd they have audio books at libraries too.

    • I think the speed we read books depends on the book itself. If it’s fiction, I can read extremely quickly and not miss a beat. I can do that with some nonfiction too, but if the material is dense and requires some processing, I’ll slow down.

      I’ve done audio books too; they’re great for long trips. You can find those in libraries too.

  12. Steve – there is little more I can add as a reason to read – the comments from your audience have covered a lot!

    IF there was something to add, I’d say the media of the reading can change (doesn’t have to be a physical book) since technology supports to much. MUST echo Vishnu’s thoughts – read less, implement more.

    – Razwana

    • Yeah, I’ve thought about getting into digital books on something like an iPad or Nook, but so far I haven’t decided to change. I do have an app on my phone called ibooks that lets me download books right to my phone. So far I’ve read a few books that way.

  13. You had me convinced at readers are sexy… haha. I have been reading a lot of blogs, but not so many books lately. About a month ago I read my first recreational book in about one or two years: The Time Machine. I also read On Writing by Stephen King, but I’m not sure which category I should put that in.

    • If I remember right, On Writing is considered mostly an autobiography since Stephen King is talking about how he developed his writing process.

      I read a lot of blogs too which can take up time; there are a lot of great blogs out there. But I always try to make time for books.

  14. I can’t agree more. Recently I read an article about Neil Gaiman on his lecture about the importance of libraries, reading and daydreaming. He’s one of my favorite authors and he made realize that I’m on the right path; now I understand why I have wide and wild imaginations, like you can’t ever imagine. And I sure will make my baby read a lot, for it is her future.

    And yes, I do find smart men sexy and very much good looking.

    • I haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman yet, but I think the movies he writes are wonderful. One of his books is sitting on my shelf right now, but I just have too many others ahead of him at the moment. Eventually his books will get a turn though.

  15. These are the most interesting & unique reasons for Being an Avid Reader. Great work & It’s really something cool :)

  16. “Readers are sexy” – you’d think this would really get men reading, but it doesn’t.

    My problem with reading: I typically try to read 3-4 books at the same time. I get too interested and start reading new ones before I finish an old one.

    • I usually have two or three books going at a time too, but I usually get around to finishing them. Although there have a been a few books I’ve just let go – usually because they’re not interesting enough to keep my attention.

  17. The question is really – am I sexy because I read, or do I read because I’m sexy? Either way, I love books and reading. They make me more creative, and give me more to invest in others. I especially like giving them away, which is an expensive habit!

    • Instead of giving them away, you should do what I do. Get a friend who likes to read a lot too and just routinely give books back and forth with each other. I’ve received some great books from friends that way and given some good ones out too.

  18. I do hope reading is not left to those who are geeky or nerdy – like me- hehe. Reading is great but seems like it has even declined in practice with the advent of gadgets- which could have encouraged reading but seems to be encouraging just plain waste of time!

    • Yeah, reading has never been easier to do. We’re one click away from Wikisource, a free online library of public domain books. That’s about as easy access as it gets.

  19. Hey Steve,

    love this (I love reading). Couldn’t agree more with the sentiment & each of the points you make – reading certainly does expand our horizons and like you, I find it a bit of a shame when I meet people (especially people who I would have expected to be avid readers) who don’t read.

    At the moment I’m reading 2 books: Thinking Fast & Slow, which I find good but slow going and Big Data which I just started and am finding really interesting,

    cheers,
    Alan

    • I remember reading something once that highlights how few people read. A writer who was just starting out got a job as a TV installer. He said he got it so he could meet a lot of people every day and get interesting ideas for characters. But one thing he noticed was that only about one in ten houses had a decent sized bookshelf in it. The others were empty or devoid of books.

      • Nice idea for a way to meet people.

        Sorry but I only just checked back to see your reply – do you not have the ‘ReplyMe’ plugin? I would recommend it – it lets people know when you’ve replied to their comments (without them having to sign up to be notified when anyone posts a comment) & as far as I can tell is a pretty ‘lightweight’ plugin.

        My problem is that my bookshelf is full and I have books left, right and center in boxes everywhere – even though I read all my books on the Kindle these days. I have given quite a lot of good books I’d recommend away in a crappy attempt to start downsizing, but to be honest I find it a bit of a wrench parting with some of my favorite books, even when I have digital copies of them!

        I love minimalism, but when it comes to books, I’m the most un-minimal person you know.

        There’s something really great about a good old book.

        • I have a hard time getting rid of books I like too – even ones I can get online for free or easily at the library. There’s just something about owning them that I like.

  20. Thank you. Just thank you.

  21. “Reader” is the first expression which comes to my mind when I try to describe myself. I’ve read at least 3000 titles in my life, I don’t know, I didn’t count.

    Great list Steve. I knew about lot of those points, but also discovered a few, like “Improves empathy”.
    Ad. #10. Do you really know someone wildly successful who doesn’t read? Please provide the example then.

    Ad. #4. The lecture of The Slight Edge has changed my life.

    • Most successful people read, but a few don’t. I’ll go a step further and name R. Kelly who has admitted he is illiterate. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver read his first book at age 38. Those are the two that come to mind right away.

      • Omg Steve, I can’t believe that R.Kelly said he is illiterate. It makes me wonder how does he write such powerful song lyrics. I guess that shows how natural it is for him. Either that or he must be joking.

        • It’s weird, isn’t it? He must have a good grasp for language that doesn’t apply to reading. I wonder how he kept track of all his lyrics, especially in the beginning.

  22. RAMAKRISHNAN says:

    Readers speak with strong confidence and the words of them will cut like swords

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