top of page

Why read books?

The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” ― René Descartes

The average time an American adult reads for pleasure has decreased from 23mins per day in 2004 to 16mins per day in 2019 according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics in the US. That 30% decrease is likely due to the other demands on people's time and is skewed by a great number of people who do not read for pleasure at all.

Is this a problem? What are people missing out on if they do not read? This is the first in the reading series of blogs.

The benefits of reading:

You can split the benefits of reading into two camps, the benefits of the mental stimulation and the benefits of losing yourself in a book.

  • The mental stimulation of reading keeps your brain active, exposing it to more ideas, more words, more worlds. It helps you learn, helps you improve your memory and staves off cognitive decline. Trying to understand what the author is saying helps you visualise and think critically and those skills can be turned into better writing. Finally it helps you improve your focus and concentration. If you keep reading you will improve your attention span.

  • Losing yourself in a book is a wonderful feeling. It takes you away from the day-to-day and into the mind of someone else. This feeling is entertaining but is also an important way to reduce stress and bring about a feeling of tranquility. Some people equate reading to meditation as it works the same concentration and focus muscles. This state can be conducive to creativity and may leave you inspired. Many who read books do so just before bed to decompress from the day and keep themselves away from the more stimulating effects of a phone or TV.

In a world of immediate but shallow information, I find reading books by the people in the know much more insightful than average journalism. I am spending more time on books than news sources. Physical books in particular are much easier to get into than trying to get the same information from a web source.

Why do so few people read

  1. In a more distracted world it's harder to switch off all devices and time that would have been allocated to reading is allocated to other things.

  2. Some associate reading with "work" and it might feel like an overly taxing way to spend their time.

  3. Many people had to read newspapers and magazines to stay informed, now headlines can be accessed more quickly.

  4. If good reading material is not readily available the effort is too high.

  5. They do not have the right book. They have purchased a book because they felt it was one they should read but in reality it did not interest them.

Choosing the right book available is important, as is making sure it is accessible. I tend to have a book in my workbag which I will have on my commute and a book by my bedside. Those are the two times I am most likely to snatch 20mins or more to get engrossed in a book.

Which books? Quick-fire questions.

  1. Fiction or non-fiction

  2. Relaxing or engaging

  3. Classic or modern

  4. Any subjects that particularly excite you? examples are history, murder mystery, science or football. What about people?

These four questions can help guide your internet search or trip down to the library or bookshop and get the right book for you.

So what?

  • People are reading less but they are missing out many of the benefits of mental stimulation and escapism.

  • Reading can be seen as a lot of effort and something people can easily avoid due to the more prominent digital distractions, some of this can be overcome by having the right book in the right place.

  • There are some amazing books out there on a wide variety of subjects so you will find something that will suit.

Thank you for joining. "Different ways to read a book" next week. Sign up to the subscription list on Blog | Deciders ( Follow me on twitter: @Decidersblog


bottom of page