Reading is not only a luxury, it's actually one of the best ways to spend our time.
Reading is certainly a luxury, privilege, and gift. And it takes a certain amount of strength of character today to finish an entire book when bite-sized texts and videos dominate our culture. But here are six reasons why reading continues to be one of the best ways we can spend our time, and why it’s a fantastic hobby to prioritize.
1.Reading is very entertaining
As with any activity that requires some skill, in order to have fun with books you need to form a certain basic habit of reading, and the ability to focus. Of course, this is the same with any other challenging activity, whether it be jogging, playing sports, or playing board games.
A first, all hobbies require a bit of practice before you can begin to enjoy them. If you give up too quickly, your only entertainment will be easy and simple things like watching funny YouTube videos or scrolling through memes—not that those are bad activities, but they don’t do anything to improve us.
Once you’ve made the effort needed to get over the initial difficulty of forming the habit of reading, the reward is much greater than the effort you put into it. As Walt Disney once said, “There’s more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
2Reading broadens our horizons
Human life is short and limited. The range of personal experiences we can have is always small: we live in a specific time and place, we interact with a limited number of people, and our personal abilities are also limited.
Through books we can break all of these limitations, and expand our life experiences almost infinitely, vicariously experiencing other lives, other historical periods and other places, and even other worlds.
Of course, reading isn’t the only way to broaden our range of experience. We can also watch a good movie or television series, or a good documentary, and that can help us have a richer vision of the world. The advantage of reading is that our participation is more active, imaginative, and personal, because a reader is always more a protagonist than a spectator.
3Reading makes us more intelligent
As they say, “reading is to the intelligence what exercise is to the body.” Reading makes us smarter for two reasons. First of all, it enriches our vocabulary, which allows us to think with more depth, richness, and rigor. It’s not the same to say, for example, that a meal is “super good,” because we don’t have any other words to describe it, as it is to be able to choose among words such as “delicious,” “succulent,” and “exquisite.” The more words we have, the better we can distinguish, describe, and enjoy reality.
Reading also makes us more intelligent because it gives us the ability to dialogue with other points of view and ideas about humanity and the world, which without a doubt broadens our perspective on reality. People who are “well-read” are less easily manipulated and have greater capacity for critical thought. It’s not surprising, therefore, that most dictatorships, in order to enforce a one-sided view of the world and put an end to dissent, forbid the reading of certain authors and books.
4Reading teaches us how to be comfortable alone and to appreciate silence
Perhaps the first condition for leading a good life is to have a good relationship with oneself. That relationship is built in times of silence, solitude, and tranquility. If we spend the day running around like a chicken with our head cut off, it will be difficult for us to get to know ourselves in depth.
Reading is a magnificent means for obtaining that tranquility, for learning to be alone and to appreciate the value of silence. In the noisy hubbub of our hyper-connected and stressed society, a book can be a true lifesaver that helps us defend our ability to reflect and to experience serenity.
Picking up a good book, turning on a cozy lamp, putting on slippers and sitting down to read is a pleasure for mature and free people.
5Reading helps us make friends
Although reading is usually something we do alone as adults (unless we’re reading to children), reading is not, by any means, a solitary activity. As Descartes wrote, “The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” It’s true: reading is, essentially, a way of sharing and having a conversation.
Universal literature offers us thousands of friends we can admire, with whom we can share adventures, and with whom we can speak. These friends can be the characters in a novel, or the authors themselves, with whom we form friendly relationships, even if we never meet them in person.
These almost magical relationships can be established with writers of our own times, but also with authors who died centuries ago and with people of other epochs, whether historical or imaginary; with elves, wizards, or even aliens. “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel like you’ve lost a friend,” says Irish author Paul Sweeney. “Or,” I’d add, “as if you’d gained one.”
We should also take into account the bonds that form between people who have read the same books, or who share tastes in literature and recommend books to each other.
There’s no doubt about it: when we read, we make many good friends, to whom we can turn time and time again throughout our lives.
6Reading is good for our professional life
I feel like I shouldn’t finish this without referring to one last reason why it’s good to read, which is that reading indubitably benefits our professional life. Although we don’t love books only because they’re useful, there’s no doubt that they are, in fact, useful.
Abilities that we develop and perfect by reading, such as comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, the ability to write, and having a wide range of topics for conversation, are undeniably advantageous in academic and professional environments.
I end this article with a quote from American President Harry S Truman: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
3 Ways that reading benefits your brain