Reading a book has many advantages, from reducing stress to exploring alien worlds. However, according to research, 4 million adults in the UK never read books for pleasure. This is a huge shame, since the benefits of reading can be life-changing.

1. Encourages empathy

Reading is akin to being shown “behind-the-scenes” of other peoples’ lives. You can be reading about a transvestite living in China or a Muslim working in a New York museum, and all the while increasing your emotional intelligence. Reading about a variety of cultures boosts your empathy levels, as you begin to understand more about the world and are able to connect with its inhabitants. “What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” says David Comer Kidd, psychologist at the New School for Social Research.

2. Reducing stress

The University of Sussex have discovered that reading reduces stress by 68%. The research found that, in comparison to other calming methods, reading distracts the mind by making it concentrate and enter foreign, literary worlds, which eases tensions in the heart and muscles. Reading has also been proven to help you relax and thus aid sleep.

3. Boosts wellbeing

Reading a happy ending or about familiar landscapes promotes positive feelings within us and brightens our day. From a battle victory to the romance between two protagonists, reading can help encourage mental wellbeing as we are taken out of our worlds and into someone else’s.

4. Increases intelligence

Alongside empathy boosts, you are able to tap into worlds of knowledge from a very young age. Reading builds vocabulary and literacy, as well as apprehension of many different professions. This will be likely to promote higher intelligence and memory capacity, particularly later on in life.

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

5. Keeps your brain young

“Pastimes like reading, writing, and  many others make the brain more efficient by changing its structure to continue functioning properly in spite of age-related neuropathologies,” explains Robert Wilson, professor of neuropsychology at Rush University Medical Center.  Alongside the physical symptoms, reading can also keep your mind young in regards to imagination, as it stimulates you to constantly dream and change.

6. Inspires

Reading can encourage life goals. Reading someone’s life story, about their struggles and ability to overcome obstacles, can give you great motivation to follow in their footsteps. Escapism at its finest, reading can motivate you to travel the world, learn another language, take risks, and accept an excitingly new job.

Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

Neil Gaiman

If you want to dip your toe into the reading pool, but not sure where to start, here is a tiny sample of the many great books out there you can sink your teeth (and mind) into:

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

A must-read if you fancy surreal Japanese fiction about a man who talks to cats and a runaway.

Magic Bites, Ilona Andrew

An easy and exciting read if you love all things fantasy and the idea of a sword-wielding, magic using heroine.

Rachel’s Holiday, Marian Keyes

Be careful where you read this book, because guaranteed you will be laughing out loud with this fun story of addict Rachel.

Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde

Don’t be put off by the fact that this play was published in late 19th Century, as its frivolous antics will brighten up your day in a jiffy.

Burnt Shadows, Kamila Shamsie

A beautiful tale that travels from Japan to Pakistan to America, from WWII to 9/11 – prepare yourself for love and tragedy.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

A gripping thriller about a woman obsessed with the memory of her husband’s dead first wife.

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