Reading is a habit that I developed thanks to my mother and father, who encouraged this hobby by buying me as many books as I could read. At the age of 6 or 7, I dove headfirst into my first Enid Blyton novel, and the rest, as they say, is history. My mother reminds me often of the summer when I broke the record for the most books read in a month at my local library. Every year, I make sure to set a reading challenge goal on Goodreads and try my best to stick to it.
Books can be read any time, but here in the United States, and perhaps in many other countries too, reading lists are a big part of the summertime theme. Kids get sent home with lists of books to read during their holiday, and adults enjoy the latest bestsellers while they sit poolside on vacation. Reading is a very relaxing activity that allows the individual to escape into other worlds and also fuels the imagination. You can learn so much from books, whether or not their subject matter is intended to be educational. There are a lot of health and wellbeing benefits to reading, so because I love books and delight in helping people find good books, I’d like to sell you on the merits of a summer reading list and recommend a few good books that you can enjoy whenever you can find the time.
There are a lot of health and wellbeing benefits to reading. It’s a very relaxing activity that allows the individual to escape into other worlds and also fuels the imagination.
1. Reading Is Good Exercise For Your Brain
Picking up a book now and then and reading for pleasure can strengthen your brain, bringing existing neural pathways to life and helping to keep it active. Everyone regardless of age can benefit from a reading habit during their lifetime, with incredible results where brain health is concerned. Children who are encouraged to maintain a reading habit reportedly perform better in school, and older adults who read or perform other brain exercises regularly are 32 percent less likely to experience mental decline. Even if you only manage a page a day, try to incorporate reading into your daily schedule to protect the wellbeing of your grey matter.
Consume whatever type of material you’d like, whether it’s a comic or an anthology of poems. I can recommend Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has also written for Marvel’s Captain Marvel, DC’s Adventures of Superman, and more.
2. Reading Inspires Your Curiosity
Books can teach you everything from how to cook a nice dish to the intricacies of photo development, even when their main theme has little to do with the subject being narrated. As a curious individual, I enjoy tucking little bits of knowledge away, to be plucked from my treasure trove with a flourish at a later date. A paperback poolside read might leave you with a random fact about sunsets, and an international bestseller could feature descriptions of a landscape so beautiful it inspires your next vacation.
From Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister I got a glimpse into Malaysian culture and was inspired by the traditional beliefs depicted within to explore the religion native to my own heritage.
3. You Might Discover New Things You Never Thought You’d Like
Have you ever picked out a book and read it only to discover that it’s completely different from what you had imagined? But you liked it anyway? Discoveries of that sort are always so great because you’re introduced to things you’d never intentionally seek out on your own, and subsequently, learn a little more about the kind of person you are. This kind of open-mindedness is healthy and can vastly improve your quality of life.
I’m really bad at reading historical fiction because something about looking backward makes me feel unsettled, but I find books by Taylor Jenkins Reid enjoyable. In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, we follow the life of a ’60s starlet who has to hide who she truly is. Daisy Jones and the Six shows you the gritty side of the ’70s rock scene, while Malibu Rising marries ’80s surf culture with a little drama.
4. Reading Can Help You Relax
E-book or physical copy, a collection of short stories or the latest literary breakout, quiet morning or serene evening, pick up at least one book this summer and escape into a different world for a while. Reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68 percent, decreasing blood pressure and lowering the heart rate.
Take a break from daily stressors and escape into Madeline Miller’s Circe, in which she illustrates the life of the Greek goddess of the same name, weaving in other popular mythological characters like Achilles, Scylla, Odysseus, and Daedalus.
5. Reading Can Benefit Your Mental Health
Right now, mental health is one area a lot of people could use some help in. Unfortunately, seeking professional help is quite expensive and isn’t equally accessible to everyone. In situations like these, the best one can do is to adopt coping strategies that can be utilized with ease. In addition to practices like meditation and yoga, reading can elevate your mood and relax your mind. Reading provides a necessary distraction from your woes and worries and, depending on the book, could offer the sort of healthy outlook you need.
Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People takes a simple story about a robbery and stretches it into a rich tapestry of ordinary life with a sprinkle of serendipity that will restore your faith in humanity one chapter at a time.
6. You Can See Yourself Represented
Thankfully, the world of writing and publishing keeps changing and growing to incorporate so many more perspectives and realities than the middle-aged, male, Caucasian thriller writers that dominated the popularity polls when I was a teenager. Representation matters because it tells you that you are valid and not alone. It’s just like Marian Wright Edelman said: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Tree taught me that there was nothing unnatural about being queer, nor was it “a Western import” like so many queer Africans have been told time and time again. And in Talia Hibbert’s Act Your Age, Eve Brown, the third installation of The Brown Sisters series, she normalizes neurodivergence in a society that often defines people solely by the characteristic that marks them as different from what is considered the norm.
7. Reading Can Make You More Empathetic Towards Others
Judging people is easy from a distance because all you can see is what’s on the surface. For example, a person who claims to be poor and owns a smartphone is criticized by people who view ownership of that device as a misplaced priority. In context, a smartphone is a lifeline for many in these modern times. It’s a tool with which to access everything from job listings to transit schedules for getting around without a vehicle.
Books can offer a window into a life that we do not understand and teach us to be kinder to the people around us. David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing will break your heart with its depiction of gay teenage boys doing their best to discover themselves while enshrouded in secrets, while Min-Ji Lee’s Pachinko illuminates turbulent moments in East Asian history, such as Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910 and the subsequent discrimination faced by Koreans.
8. And Finally, Reading Can Help You Sleep Better
Reading is my favorite activity for winding down at bedtime because the transition into sleep is so much smoother than nodding off in front of the TV only to be shocked awake by the suddenly too-loud volume. The decrease in stress and tension that reading provides will relax you, making it easier for your body to fall asleep. E-readers are a great tool, but in this case, you might be better off with good old ink on paper instead of a digital screen, as the blue light emanating from those will achieve the opposite goal. And if you’re worried that you’ll be too engrossed in your tome of choice to surrender to sleep, pick out a volume of popular fiction like You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria or Tendai Huchu’s The Hairdresser of Harare.