The Point of Books: Personal and Societal Benefits of Reading

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Literature has always been a difficult thing to define, but the benefits of reading books not so much. While everyone may agree that it refers to any written work of art, from a poem to original writing on a sculpture, opinions clash when it comes to concepts like: Is it really art or technology? What determines its quality? Linguistic structure, ideas, psychological development of characters or all of these together? Where does literary fiction end and genre fiction begin?

There are popular books out there, like Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans dealing with deep concepts of immigration through a police investigation, that do fit into a particular category but still pack a semantic punch. That qualifies them as good works of literature. The most important question, however, is what such literature does for readers, the reason for the publishing industry’s very existence.

Benefits of Reading Books

  1. Historical and sociological impact. For centuries, literature has chronicled events and cultures, a practice that never abated. Libraries and retailers – physical and digital – accumulate vibrant stories from all over the world. The film, TV and video game industries are literature’s main rivals, but the business of words has answered the challenge with the likes of comic books. Their beloved combination of art, narration and frequent mythological, historical and cultural references practically drive all other entertainment sectors. Think of the power currently held by Marvel and DC.
  2. Social and psychological sensitivity. Readers inhabit a different person with every new book. They experience the world – parts and versions of it they couldn’t have imagined – through characters’ eyes, situations and often complex thoughts. Minds are broadened, expanding their understanding of how vast the world really is. If allowed, empathy is improved at the same time. It’s true that only our openness to new ideas limits or expands the benefits of books.
  3. Analytical skills. Have you ever finished a book and sat there for 10 minutes thinking about it, if not carried its spirit with you for days or weeks? That’s because something in the story tickled your brain and heartstrings, an effect capable of reaching new stimulating heights. Whether alone or in a book club, exploring an influential book’s composition and key moments can be fun, but also as rewarding to the mind’s sharpness and perception as a good puzzle or game of chess. In fact, some texts are often created for the sole purpose of having their meanings analysed and debated.
  4. Healthy mind and body. On a more scientific note, reading books really does exercise the brain’s neuro-pathways responsible for fact-processing and imagination. It also reduces stress and sleeping problems. To be even more precise, reading uses the object cortex, located in the left side of the brain, to store physical representations of words, phrases and so on, keeping an important mechanism behind a person’s cognitive abilities active. Regular mental exercise of this kind is vital to preventing deceases like Alzheimer’s from emerging. It also gives the reader something creative to focus on, distracting them from everyday anxieties that keep them from relaxation or sleep.

Literature, regardless of quality or genre, is directly linked to humanity. People turned words into writing and this art now both embodies the human intellect and influences it.

Want some great books to add to your library?

Author: Electra Nanou

Wordy weirdo supporting authors

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