Why you should read… and why you shouldn’t

Reading is good for you!

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I feel as though I am being inundated with pointless articles. Welcome to the internet amiright?

I’ve read, or rather glanced over, so many articles recently which highlight the benefits of reading. Sites such as Lifehack and the Huffington Post have outlined the wondrous effect that reading can have on a person’s physical and mental well-being. Urging people, who, in all honesty, probably found their site through a social network, to put down their mobile phones, get off Facebook and pick up a book.

Lifehack blogger Lana Winter-Hébert wrote one such article:

‘10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day’.

‘When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article?’ She asks, ‘Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant oatmeal packet? If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out.’

The article listed the following ten ‘benefits’ of reading:

  1. Mental stimulation
  2. Stress reduction
  3. Knowledge
  4. Vocabulary expansion
  5. Memory improvement
  6. Stronger analytical thinking skills
  7. Improved focus and concentration
  8. Better writing skills
  9. Tranquillity
  10. Free entertainment

I have a few issues with this.

I love to read, but I’m not about to lecture anyone on why they should read. People have talked about the benefits of reading for a long time, but it is only recently that these odd attempts at quantifying the benefits of such practices have emerged.

Yes, reading can be beneficial, but so can eating organic produce, avoiding chocolate, giving up smoking, going for runs and abstaining from your morning coffee, and there are plenty of people who lack either the money, time or desire to do these things.

The article goes on: ‘There’s a reading genre for every literate person on the planet, and whether your tastes lie in classical literature, poetry, fashion magazines, biographies, religious texts, young adult books, self-help guides, street lit, or romance novels, there’s something out there to capture your curiosity and imagination.’

This is a little too presumptuous for my liking. Perhaps I am unique among book lovers in that I think there are some people who, as hard as it is to accept, just don’t like reading.

I think the main benefit to reading, and the main reason people should be reading, is because they enjoy it. Reading is a pastime, and it shouldn’t be made to feel like a chore.

If you enjoy reading, but rarely find the time to pick up a book then you could definitely do worse than to take half an hour at the end of the day to immerse yourself in a good novel. But if you don’t, then you don’t need to, and you shouldn’t feel peer pressured into doing so because of the supposed benefits.

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