A book is like a time travel machine.
Reading allows us to go into another world for a moment, whether it be to a wintry wonderland, a sun-blasted desert or a faraway castle equipped with fire-breathing dragons.
It can also take us places more reminiscent of the everyday world, like a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon, where we join a group of friends bantering and enjoying themselves.
Simply put, reading is an adventure. It allows us to make new discoveries, to feel emotions, to meet new people between the pages.
So, what do we learn from reading? Well, a variety of things:
- We learn about ourselves.
- We learn how to be better people.
- We learn about new stories and ways of telling them.
In today's post, we're going to highlight a few different ways we gain from reading books. So, let's dive right in!
Pertinent take-away messages or themes
Most of the time, we read to be entertained. To momentarily live the life of a character. To escape.
But in most cases, when we reach the end of a story, we also take away an important message – sometimes known as the book's theme.
Themes are the central messages or concepts that a book explores. The beauty of themes is that they can leave us as readers with a take-away message that might affect our own lives or ways of thinking.
Poignant, resonant exploration of universal themes tends to separate the books that stay with us for the long haul from the ones that quickly diminish from our minds after we close them.
If a book's theme or message is impactful enough, it can stick with a reader forever.
Valuable life lessons
We can learn so many valuable lessons from reading – not only about the world, human nature and life itself, but about ourselves (more on that below).
What's more, books can also help to bring us through dark and troubling times. They can become a complement to our journeys as people, making our lives – and us – more rounded.
Between the pages with our beloved characters, we can see the world and those around us in entirely new ways.
Books that explore humility, for example, can teach us how to put our own egos and pride aside and reflect on what it means to be humble, to listen and care for others and to put another person’s needs before our own.
Reading can help you become conscious of who you are as a person, learn to love yourself just as you are, and understand how new ways of thinking or acting might make your life (and the lives of others) better.
Insight into ourselves
Books can influence the way we think and the actions we take. But reading can also teach us things that help us to better understand ourselves, why we do things and why we are the way we are.
Many of the books I’ve read over the years have made me see myself in a different way.
Stories can show us that we are not alone, and that other people go through the same things we've been through. They can teach us that it is okay to be different and help us embrace it.
This is one of the many reasons I read. I read so that the world does not seem so big and lonely anymore.
For a moment, I am reminded that others suffer through the same things I do. By reading about how a character not only suffered something, but also surpassed it, I have faith that I can do the same.
Exercise for the mind
Reading widely doesn't just expand your vocabulary. It has the ability to boost your brain power. Just as your body benefits from regular exercise, so does your brain.
Studies have shown that reading is great in developing fluid intelligence. This type of intelligence allows you to solve a problem without having any prior knowledge in the subject matter.
Let’s say we are in a sticky situation and need an answer quickly, but don’t have enough information. This is when our fluid intelligence kicks in and we can deduce how to solve the problem quickly. Thanks, books!
Reading can help you make smarter choices and increase your emotional intelligence. It has also been shown to protect against degenerative diseases and mental ageing.
The more you read, the more you're exercising the muscle of your brain, increasing its longevity and overall health.
Reading can also be good for mental health. Let’s be honest: we can all use a pick-me-up from time to time, and seeking out stories is a great option.
I can reflect on moments in my life in which I sought out my favourite book, diving into the pages as soon as I got home from a tough day at school or work.
Appreciation for different genres and styles
Chances are, if you’re a reader, you’ve probably run across the acronym TBR, which means 'to be read'.
Your TBR is that towering list of books that seems to continue growing taller and more ominous every day. The more we read (and talk to other people who read), the more books we toss on top of that already toppling list.
While this is an amazing feeling, it can also be a curse. Your TBR will likely never stop growing, because there are so many books and just not enough time in the day, year or century to possibly read them all.
It's a good problem to have, though – and one that you'll soon find you share with the millions of other readers out there.
The book community is gigantic on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram (aka bookstagram). You won't have to look far to find a lovely bookish community with tonnes of nice people and even more books.
As you experience different stories and live inside different worlds, your taste in genres may change.
I started reading prehistoric fiction (the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel), then ventured to solely reading romance novels and young adult fantasy.
Since then, that list has evolved to NA and adult romance, and now I’m reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – a multi-genre series with elements of historical fiction, romance, adventure and fantasy.
Reading widely across genres can give you a heightened sense of appreciation for different stories and styles of writing.
So, there you have it! Just a handful of the things we can learn from books.
Whether you're seeking a story that takes you to a faraway land, reflects a similar experience to yours, teaches you something new or simply takes you on an unforgettable adventure, you're bound to find one on the shelves of your bookstore or library!