Happy National Read a Book Day!

Reading: something lots of us love, some of us hate, and none of us have enough time for in today’s fast-paced, screen-filled society. The benefits of reading for pleasure are well documented; from improving your concentration to having a positive impact on your mental health. Choosing something to read is half the battle, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favourites to inspire you in honour of National Read a Book Day.

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We all need some downtime in our lives; allocated time to hit the reset button and relax. Whilst scrolling on our phones and binge-watching Netflix have their own appeal, reading is a hobby which might be helping you in more ways than one. MRI scans show that reading uses a complicated network of brain pathways which get stronger as your reading ability improves (Houston et al., 2014). As well as giving you a better grasp of grammar and spelling, reading also increases your vocabulary. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books to keep your mind active and therefore reduce age-related cognitive decline. Beyond being a hobby or pastime, a study by the University of Liverpool indicated that the mental health of patients with depression improved over a 12-month period of attending regular reading groups (Billington et al., 2010).

Reading aloud to children can help them with sentence structure, story structure and vocabulary, as well as building self-esteem and encouraging curiosity about words (Pankey, 2000). Long-term academic success can be linked to early engagement with reading as a child (Dickinson et al., 2012). Reading with or to your children can also be a great bonding experience.

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There’s no one book that is going to be everyone’s perfect read. The good news is that there are around 129,864,880 books in the world, which should mean that there’s something for everyone. If you’re not a great lover of fiction, you could pick up an autobiography of someone you admire, or a bone-chilling true crime novel. Tend to lose focus? There are books for that too! A collection of short stories may be just the thing to keep you engaged until the end.

In a study of individuals reading for pleasure, the main factors in choosing the right book were the desired reading experience, the source, elements of the book itself, and the cost to the reader on accessing the book (Ross, 2000). Think about what you hope to gain from your read, whether it’s learning something new, escaping into a different world, or finding humour. Although nothing beats the feel and smell of a real book, there are more eco-friendly options too, such as the Kindle with its one million plus books to browse through, ready to be downloaded instantly. Great books don’t need to cost the earth; there are plenty of inexpensive books available online, or you could take part in a local book swap.

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Choosing a book can take longer than reading it! Need some inspiration? Here are a few favourites that we’ve read re to speed up the process.

If you’re looking for a classic novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Arguably one of the most important novels ever written, and still relevant in its exploration of right and wrong to this day.

If you’re looking for romance: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Not your average boy meets girl, thanks to Henry’s time-travelling tendencies, but a tale of love overcoming the most impossible circumstances.

If you’re looking for historical fiction: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

From the bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl comes a surprisingly feminist novel set in civil-war-torn England in 1648.

If you’re looking for childhood nostalgia: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. All aboard the Hogwarts Express for a comforting trip down memory lane, featuring magic and friendship in equal measure.

If you’re looking for a poignant page-turner: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

A bittersweet tale of life and death which will both warm and break your heart along the way.

If you’re looking for non-fiction: Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe

The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of how things work, all explained using a vocabulary of our 1,000 most commonly used words. You won’t be short of a fun fact at a party after an hour of reading this!

If you’re looking for something medical: This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay.

Treading the line between humorous and horrifying, this a memorable read which gives us an insight into life on the frontline of the NHS.

Do you consider yourself a reader? What’s your favourite book of all time? Whether it’s with something new or with an old classic, we hope we’ve inspired you to treat yourself to a few hours curled up on the sofa with a good book in celebration of National Read A Book Day.

Supporting information

Billington, J. et al. (2010) An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being. Liverpool: The Reader Organization, Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Centre

Dickinson, D. K. et al. (2012) How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World Child Development Research vol. 2012, Article ID 602807

Houston S. M. et al. (2014) Reading skill and structural brain development. Neuroreport. 25(5):347-352. doi:10.1097/WNR.0000000000000121

Pankey, J. C. (2000) The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Pre-School Children

Ross, C. S. (2000) Making Choices, The Acquisitions Librarian, 13:25, 5-21, DOI: 10.1300/J101v13n25_02

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