THE BLOG
06/21/2013 05:31 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2013

The Reasons I Became an Avid Reader

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In high school, I was the type of person who felt no reason to read. For my history classes, the only parts of the textbooks I read were section heads, words in boldface type, and highlighted passages. Sparknotes got me through my English classes, and for everything else there was Wikipedia.

Sure, I read in the sense that words were transferred from a book or screen into my brain via my eyes, but I certainly did not enjoy the process nor did I believe in its utility.

It wasn't until about halfway through college that I realized how much books had to offer me. It struck me hard while I was reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It struck me harder when I was reading about the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. And it knocked me the hell out when I was mining the Confessions of St. Augustine for quotes for a history paper and realized how full of interesting insights it was. For me it was basically realizing how much I could potentially learn from a text in spite of it being hundreds of years old that converted me into an avid reader.

Just because you have graduated from school does not mean you get to toss all your books out the window. As hard as it has become for most of us to focus on anything more than 150 characters long that is devoid of memes or kittens or kitten memes, we must not forget that the ability to sit down for an extended period of time and immerse ourselves in a good book is an invaluable skill.

The cool thing about reading is that once you realize you ought to be reading and starting doing it more often, the more you begin to enjoy it. And it's a wonderful habit to develop. For those who need more convincing, let's review the incredible benefits of reading.

Improve your brain function

Reading will get your brain jacked like a Spartan. Not only does reading exercise your brain, it also creates more connections and strengthens synapses. This can contribute to the improvement of you memory, creativity, concentration, and focus -- all essential skills for success.

Discover an untapped passion lurking in your soul

This mostly applies to reading nonfiction, but I'm sure realistic fiction could similarly inspire you to pursue a certain career path. By reading more and expanding your interests, you increase the possibility of stumbling across some information that may completely change how you view the world, or open your mind to a passion you never even knew existed.

Build your vocabulary

Reading forces you to confront words you are not familiar with. (Another great reason to get a Kindle is that it comes with a dictionary installed so you can easily look up any word you don't know.) With more words in your vocabulary arsenal, you will be able to express yourself more clearly and with greater nuance. Plus, you get to sound smarter. And you will breeze through a good portion of any standardized test.

Relieve stress

Reading is a much more productive and healthy form of escapism. It can serve as a form of entertainment, or it can relax you, or it can do both. Reading will slow your mind down when it is racing and worrying. This is especially useful at night when you're having trouble sleeping. A study at the University of Minnesota "recommends reading some form of literature for at least half an hour every day for optimum relaxation."

Learn how to eloquently and articulately organize and express thoughts

Reading good literature familiarizes you with great writing. If you want to learn how to be articulate and eloquent in your speech and writing, you need to study the works of those who already know how. It's like if you're a beginner musician and you're trying to learn a new piece. It's often best to strive to imitate the greats before you attempt to develop your own style and interpretations.

Increase reading comprehension skills

The more you read, the more you improve your ability to absorb and retain what you read. You become a more efficient reader: you can read faster, understand faster, and remember more. Reading is an essential part of preparing for SAT/GRE/LSAT/GMAT etc. because you can't really "study" reading comprehension. You improve by simply reading more.

Learn about the world

One way to learn about the world is by travelling, interacting with the locals, and immersing yourself in different cultures. Another way is by getting a library card, and checking out a few books. The world will suddenly seem much smaller, and you will be thrilled by what you learn. You will also get much more out of travelling if you have read about where you plan to go.

Learn about human nature

Any good story will offer amazing insights into elements of human psychology. Good character development and interpersonal dynamics are dependent on a deep understanding of human nature. So believe it or not, book do have the power to improve your people skills!

Learn from history

Human beings have been around for thousands of years, and history is the sum of the knowledge that has been accumulated over those millennia. Many people devoted their lives to writing, philosophy, science, and various other disciplines, and there is much to be learned from all of them. As Emerson wrote in his History essay: "What Plato has thought, you may think; what a saint has felt, you may feel; what at any time has be-fallen any man, you can understand."

Reusability

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln only had a few books in his possession. Yet he spent hours reading and rereading these books, over and over again. Each time he reread a text, he got more out of it, and began to internalize it. So remember: you can always get more out of a book the second, or even third time around.

Honestly, reading simply makes you more of an interesting person. "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one."

So make it a goal to read on a daily basis, or tackle a reading list by a certain date. If you'd like to start reading more but don't know where to start, find a reading list or create one like I have. For example, read all of the Harvard Classics. Or the works of Shakespeare. Or the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Whatever titillates your little brain.

Happy reading!

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