I’m kicking off my week of literary love with a topic that I think means a lot to all of us: why I love reading and reading is so important.
This is a nonfiction blog so while this is a bit of a geeky reason, it’s true for most of the books I read. I love fun facts, science, and history in particular. I’m equally likely to learn about history from fiction and I love that too
Although I definitely have favorite genres, I like to push my boundaries too. Reading books outside my comfort zone is a great way to find new genres and authors I love.
I used to hate books that made me cry and while I still avoid them sometimes, The Book Thief has completely convinced me that books that make you feel deeply can be spectacular. Even in less sob-inducing stories, my favorite books are usually the ones in which I empathize with the characters.
I certainly don’t want to only experience the world through books, but I think its fantastic that I can visit other countries, experience historic events, and try out other careers by reading books. In some cases, books can be inspiration for experiences of my own. In other cases, they’re the only way to experience things I never can (historical fiction) or never want to (Orange is the New Black).
So, I lied to you in the title. This isn’t really a list of the top five reasons everyone should read – it’s all part of this one reason. A friend once presented to me the following hypothetical scenario: You’re in a burning building and you can save either the last copies of the works of Shakespeare or a person. Which do you save? For me, the answer is obviously the person, but I agree completely with most of his argument for why you’d save the works of Shakespeare. Books change lives and have shaped history. I don’t believe that the increasing literacy and the increasing inclusiveness of our society are unrelated. Books teach us things and in the best cases, they push us out of our comfort zone and teach us something about people we didn’t understand before. They make us empathize with people different from us, in race or gender, nationality or religion, sexual orientation or life experiences. There are very few problems in the world today that couldn’t be solved by increased empathy for our fellow human beings, which is why I think books can change the world. Pick one up today.
(Don’t believe me? Check out this fascinating study from PLoS One on how reading fiction can increase empathy)