Welcome to Top 10 Tuesday! This is a weekly challenge hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week’s challenge is about reasons why I love reading!
I’m so excited for this week’s topic! Reading is one of my favorite things in the world, and there are so many different reasons why. I talked to several family members to help me brainstorm for this post (you’ll see me crediting their ideas throughout), and it was amazing how many of our answers were the same. Therefore, I think some of these reasons will be pretty universal, which is great! It just goes to show why reading is such a powerful way to connect with others. But hopefully some will be fairly unique as well! I also really can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with for this post, too. I’m sure there are other things I love about reading that I just didn’t think of while writing this post! Without further ado, here are my top ten reasons why I love reading (in no particular order)!
1. Escape from Reality
I feel like this is probably one of the most universal answers to this question! There is no better escape than a good book. When life gets hard (as it has been during this crazy year-and-a-half), getting lost in a good book is the perfect way to forget about all of the hard things going on in the real world and just escape to somewhere different. Sometimes it’s great to escape into something happy and fun like a romance novel, sometimes it’s nice to escape with a dark thriller and be immersed in problems very different from your own, or sometimes there’s nothing better than escaping into a great science fiction novel to dream of what could be (Thanks, Dad, for that example!).
Regardless of how you might choose to use books to escape, there really is nothing better than getting sucked into a good book and forgetting about everything else for a little while. Some books that have provided great escapism for me over the years have been The Hunger Games, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, From Scratch, Just Listen, and more!
2. Increased Empathy (Windows)
Another reason why I love reading so much is that it exposes me to so many different people, places, perspectives, and experiences that I wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. Because books are so immersive, it often feels like you are experiencing things with the characters. Because of this, having new experiences and being exposed to new perspectives is a great way to have increased empathy and understanding of those who are different from you. A couple books I’ve read this year that have shown me a new perspective are Concrete Rose and With the Fire on High. Both of these feature main characters who are teen parents, and it shined a light on some misconceptions I didn’t know I had. After reading these books, I came away with so much more knowledge, empathy, and understanding of a situation that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I just feel like reading makes me a more empathetic, knowledgeable, and overall just better person, and I’m so grateful for that!
3. Feel Less Alone (Mirrors)
On the other hand, reading books that reflect who you are in some way is also an incredibly powerful experience. When you read stories that you can see yourself in, it makes you feel less alone. Sometimes that means reading about a character that matches a core part of your identity such as race, gender, sexuality, etc. Other times, it could be reading about a character who shares your experiences or preferences. Or something else entirely! Regardless of what it is, realizing that you’re not alone in who you are or what you’ve experienced is such an important thing, and it really makes you feel a sense of validation in who you are and what you’ve been through (Thanks, Mom, for the wording on this one!). Something that I talk about with my students is that it’s important to find a balance between reading books that are windows (they give us a “window” into a new perspective or experience), and books that are mirrors (books that reflect who we are). It’s so important to have both!
I know for me, I’ve always struggled to feel like I fit in. I’m awkward, quiet, anxious, and introverted and for a long time I never felt like I saw myself in the stories I read, which just made me feel worse and like maybe there was something wrong with being all of those things. Recently though, I’ve read a few books that I really saw myself in and that I wished I’d had available to me when I was younger. (Side note: I’m so excited to see how the YA genre is becoming more diverse and inclusive!) Last year, I read You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, and I loved seeing a main character who was quiet and responsible and who struggled with anxiety like I did. I also read Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson and really connected with the overall “quiet” style of the book (as well as the setting and the character’s love for Spanish). On a completely different note, I read Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards a couple years ago and it was the first self-help book I’ve read that I found empowering as an introvert. I always want to believe that being introverted is a strength, but oftentimes the experiences I have and the things I read discourage me a little bit. But this book was the first to make me feel like I have skills as an introvert that will actually help me succeed. It was so powerful for me to read something like that!
Something else I love about reading is that it helps me learn new things! Reading memoirs helps me learn about other people (I especially love reading about strong, powerful women), reading informational nonfiction helps you learn facts about a wide range of topics and oftentimes things that you can put into action in your own life (Thanks again, Dad, for that one!), and historical fiction helps you learn about what life was like long ago. Of course, there are so many different examples I could put here, but I think you get the idea. I love learning new things, and no matter what I’m reading, I feel like I’m constantly learning something new. Some books I’ve read recently that have helped me learn something new are Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, Sous Chef, and The Mountains Sing.
5. Become A Better Writer
In addition to learning new information from reading books, you can also learn new vocabulary and writing strategies that will make you a better writer! (Thanks to my husband for this one!) I went to a virtual book festival last fall that featured authors like Renée Watson, Aiden Thomas, Bethany C. Morrow, Justina Ireland, and more (images of the books they were promoting below). One question that came up in almost every panel was what advice these authors had for aspiring authors; what people could do to become better writers. Almost every single author who was asked this had the same answer: Read. In one of my classes in school, I remember hearing this quote: “Not all readers are writers, but all writers are readers.” If you want to get better at writing, the best thing you can do is read as much as possible! Not only will you be inspired by different and creative ideas, but you’ll also be able to observe and analyze the masterful things that these brilliant authors are doing. Even if your goal isn’t to be a professional writer, pretty much everyone uses writing in some capacity in their daily lives, and reading a lot is an easy way to get better at it!
6. Immersive and Authentic Experiences (Audiobooks)
I couldn’t make this list without highlighting audiobooks at least a little bit! I used to be a firm believer in only reading physical books, and while those still are my preference, listening to audiobooks truly has only enhanced my love of reading. The first audiobook I ever listened to was I Am Malala, and the narrator did a great job of not only immersing me in Malala’s incredible life story, but also showing me authentic pronunciations of names, locations, and other words that would have been unfamiliar to me. I actually taught my students a little bit about Malala Yousafzai during Women’s History Month this year, and I felt so much more confident teaching about the work that she’s done knowing that I was pronouncing her name and other things correctly.
Hearing names, places, and words from other languages pronounced correctly just creates such an authentic experience (much more so than if I were reading in my head and not knowing how to say certain words). Most recently, I finished an audiobook of The Henna Artist. Hearing names, locations, and words of cultural relevance pronounced the way that they’re meant to be in an authentic accent (as far as I know) just immersed me so much more in the story. A couple years ago, I listened to What Alice Forgot and really enjoyed listening to the narrator’s Australian accent; it highlighted that the book was set in Australia which is something I may not have really noticed too much otherwise! I love the authentic and immersive experiences that well-performed audiobooks can create.
Additionally, when authors narrate their own books (and they do it well) it is such a powerful experience. A few authors who read their own books that come to mind are Trevor Noah, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Khaled Hosseini.
7. Helps Me Sleep
This maybe isn’t a super exciting one, but another reason I love reading is that it helps me sleep! I’ve noticed that when I read for a little while before going to bed, I almost always sleep better than if I’m on my phone up until the moment I go to bed. It relaxes me, lets my eyes focus on something that isn’t a bright screen, and it provides an escape that makes me feel less anxious. Oftentimes I have trouble sleeping because of my anxiety (my mind just won’t stop running), but when I read before bed I’m focused more on a story instead of my own worries, which helps me fall asleep quicker! It’s such a small thing, but I’m really grateful for it.
8. Travel to New Places
This is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and even started my own bookish meme to celebrate it: Travel Thursday! Books give us a way to travel somewhere, even while we’re stuck at home (like we have been during the pandemic!). Sometimes we travel to fantastical new places that exist only in books and movies, other times we travel to places that we could go to in real life! Either way, it provides a way for us to (at least partially) satisfy our wanderlust and inspires us to go to new places and add new experiences to our bucket lists! I love how reading has helped me travel the world from my couch over the last year-and-a-half (and always, really).
Some of my recent literary travels that I haven’t yet mentioned in this post are: The Martian (Mars), The Murmur of Bees (Mexico), and Red Clocks (Oregon of the near future).
9. Reading Is Fun!
This is an obvious one, but I also love reading because it’s fun! It’s an endless source of entertainment and it brings me so much joy. Reading makes me feel so many different emotions, which just makes me feel so alive. It truly is my primary method of self-care. If I ever need “me time” to just relax and recharge, reading is my go-to choice. Reading is the best!
Some of the most fun/thrilling/intriguing/etc. books that have really made me feel something so far this year are: Dark Places, Friday Black, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and Call Me Maybe.
10. Connecting with Others
Finally, one more reason I love reading is how it helps me connect with others. My favorite thing to ask other people (whether I’m meeting them for the first time or there’s just a lull in the conversation) is, “So, what are you reading right now?” or, “What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?” It’s a great way to learn about other people, connect with them, and get recommendations on what to read! My mom also mentioned book clubs (something I’ve always wanted to be a part of) and how those are a great way to connect with other book lovers and discuss books! It’s also a great way to read things that you may not have picked up otherwise.
This desire to connect with others through books is also what led me to start this book blog. I love seeing what other people are reading and making those bookish connections. It truly is such a wonderful and welcoming community and I’m grateful that reading has created the opportunity to connect with all of you!
While there are many more reasons to love reading, I’d say these 10 are probably the most important for me personally. What would your top ten be? Is there anything you would add to this list?
Let me know in the comments!