Time and Books

Why You Should Read Books (& How to Find Time)

As a lifelong bookworm, I admit that I’m more passionate about books than the average guy or gal on the street. Even so, it shocked me when I first read that the average American never reads another book after college.

There’s so much to be gained from reading books. The mind-expanding benefits are huge – and bear in mind that, while there’s a lot of great online reading (like Pick the Brain ;-)), anything written by great thinkers in the past is often only available in books.

If I’ve not convinced you yet, here are just some great reasons to pick up a book regularly:

Escape

When life feels like it’s all getting too much, escaping into a book for half an hour can really make a difference to your mood. The great thing about reading a book is that it’s something that can completely absorb your mind: you’ll find that you can often tune out background chatter on a train, or the TV blaring on the other side of the room.

Entering into a world of fictional characters and their problems also lets you “tune out” the chatter in your own mind. When you’ve got a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter, or when you find your attention jumping between a dozen different things (as is often the case when reading online), you’ll find that books form a welcome oasis where you can escape from the stresses of life.

Entertainment

Books are also hugely entertaining. You might be reading a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, a sci-fi novel that sets out a brilliantly imaginative view of the future, a biography of a colourful historical figure, or a scientific book that opens up a new world. If you struggle through the first thirty or forty pages of a book and you’re bored, it’s worth seriously considering picking something else (don’t feel obliged to finish a novel just because you’ve started it).

And don’t dismiss books as less entertaining and exciting than television and movies. Words can do things which images and sound can’t: they can take us deep into a character’s mind, delight us with cunning wordplay, and deliver a much deeper, richer story than is possible in an hour-long episode of your favourite show. And, of course, books don’t break off every fifteen minutes for a commercial…

Learning

Of course, escape and entertainment might be nice, but they aren’t all that books offer. One of the biggest reasons to turn to books is because they offer an outstanding wealth of learning – at a far cheaper price than going on a course. Whatever you want to learn, it’s a safe bet that there are books on it. From computer programming to Latin, DIY to planning a wedding, there’s a huge amount available in your bookstore (and your local library).

Don’t dismiss fiction as a source of learning, either; great novelists can give you insights into people’s motivations, as you read about the characters in the novel. You can also learn lots of small things along the way: perhaps new words in a literary or classic novel, new facts in a historical novel, or new scientific information in a sci-fi novel. (As a young teen, my introduction to supernovas and black holes was through Star Trek novels…)

Now, despite having loads of great reasons to read more books, many of us (myself included) complain that “there just isn’t time.” But it’s always possible to make time for something important. Here’s a few ideas:

Schedule Your Reading

Whenever you want to fit something into your life that you’d like to do but never get around to, it’s worth scheduling it. That can seem a bit silly for something like “reading”, but it really does work. How about setting aside half an hour every evening (maybe before dinner) to read?

Turn off the Television

How much TV do you watch every day? Can you find an extra half-hour to read, simply by switching off the TV? If you’re like me and spend much more time glued to a computer screen than a television screen, how about switching off the computer at a set time each night (nine pm works well), then reading for the rest of the evening? You might even find that you sleep better when your mind isn’t buzzing from emails, Twitters and trying to keep up with the never-sleeping online world…

Read During Your Commute and Lunch Hour

If you commute to work by train or bus, take a book with you, instead of buying a newspaper. If you drive, you could listen to audio books. If you cycle like me, you need your eyes and your ears on the traffic, but how about using your lunch hour to read instead? Get away from the office, perhaps to a local coffee shop, and put your feet up with your book for a bit – you’ll probably have a much more productive afternoon than you do when you try to work through lunch.

Do you read as many books as you’d like to? What reasons do you have for reading books (or for not reading books!) and what tips do you have on making time to do so?

About the writer: Ali is a postgraduate student and professional writer. She runs Alpha Student (grab the RSS feed), a blog which aims to help students get the most of their time at university.

Image courtesy of Striatic

  • As another bookworm, I fully agree. It can also help you at other levels, eg gain perspective (reading people’s biographies is great for that) or even to help you write better.

  • Since most modern phones/smartphones have ebook readers, you can carry a few hundred books around with you to fill in lots of 5 minute gaps in your life.

  • I was never a voracious reader. I savored books. So, I’m not the type to be satisfied to nibble a sentence here and a paragraph there. I find I lose the feel of the thing if I do that. So, I don’t read for pleasure unless I have at least a 15-minute block of time. The other requirement is that I have to have a book that I really love to read at hand. That gets surprisingly harder as I get older. Partly because I no longer tolerate books that bore me, including the “classics,” and partly because my tastes are all over the place. But, the enjoyment has intensified, too, so I the trade-off was well worth it. Some books that I quickly polished off in my youth as “fun but nothing special” have a renewed significance now while others that I once thought were masterpieces are sadly disappointing. “The Little Prince” and “Interview with the Vampire,” respectively, are good examples. All in all, I’d say I do read as many books as I’d like to. I make time for them by simply reading them whenever I feel like it and making up any time lost from work when I feel like it. This works for me because I work long hours anyway and reading for pleasure is not only a welcome break but I strongly believe a necessary one for my continued health, happiness, and productivity. Great post, Ali! : )

    • Thanks Shanel!

      I agree that it’s hard to settle into a book in a very short gap of time (I like to have at least 30 minutes to read). And yes, taking a break to read is definitely good for your sanity!

  • I love reading books! I too have to make time to read, I read mostly non-fiction which enables me to be reading multiple books at a time. I have books in the car, books in most of the rooms in my house, books in my office. This way I can read whenever the opportunity presents itself. One of the issues I have with my own reading habit is that as I am reading one book another will catch my interest and I have a hard time getting to the end of a book.

  • I used to never want to take the time out to read books. Books in high school were terrible and of no interest to me. As a biology major in college, althought it was all very good stuff, I had the bad habit of not wanting to read that was created from the past habit patterns of thought I had in high school. Luckily for myself, I went to a catholic university. Those two words don’t even belong in the same sentence, but the key for me was being forced to take philosophy classes. This made the difference for me. I was finally passionate about reading.

    I had read a total of 3 books my whole life up until that time. I have read close to 50 books since and am still going!

    I am so passinate about reading, that I get up with enough time to read 30 minutes before I go to work in the morning. I spend my entire lunch hour reading, as well as 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed. I would like to mention that I am married with a third child on the way. My other two kids are 4 & 2 years of age. I also love watching sport, thank goodness for DVR’s! Oh, yeah…I also listen to audio tapes for the two hours I drive each day to and from work.

    One final note – reading has totally transformed my life from stressful and tired to happy and energized (among improving other areas of my life too.)

    Reading is a fundamental key to life long happiness and success!

  • I read a lot of books and spend a lot of money in it
    you can see my monthly spending here

    http://kclau.com/wealth-management/how-relax-managed-his-december-cash-flow/

    by reading books, I have a lot of knowledge substance to write good articles.

    There are 5 secrets to knowledge: READ READ READ READ READ

    your friend Relax ~

  • I’m a pretty avid reader. That’s why I thank God someone invented the paperback: it’s a book you can hold and turn the pages with, only needing one hand.

    I’ve read in the kitchen while cooking. (Ok, stirring.) While taking a relaxing bubble bath. If I have to stand in a line for longer than 10 minutes, a book comes in handy. (Particularly apt for government offices.)

    Anyway, I think people are threatened by reading books because they believe they have to read high brow literature. If you love Dean Koontz, then don’t try to force yourself to read “The Kite Runner” or “Crime and Punishment”.

    Personally, I love Science Fiction, Fantasy, anything written by Sarah Vowell or Malcolm Gladwell, and romance novels.

    I’m not even talking faux historical, the-author-had-to-do-a-lot-of-research novels. (Although, the “Mammoth Hunters” and “Shelters of Stone” from the Clan of the Cave Bear series is kind of perfect in that regard.) No, I’m talking less-than-200-pages, $4, Harlequin Romance Novels.

    Read whatever you like and do it with pride.

  • I’ve been an avid reader of books for as long as I can remember – although my mother says it started when I was five and broke my arm during a vacation at the beach… I’d bring home stacks from the every other week visit to the library. Fantasy novels were my favorite genre but I’d go on binges of other other things like quantum physics or Japanese culture.

    I love the feeling of being absorbed in another world or another person’s point of view. This works in many types of non-fiction as well as fiction.

    Nowadays I only read about one book a week and sometimes mourn the loss. They are mostly thinking or business related with a little fiction thrown in. At the moment I have a John Maxwell book on success, a book on design principles, and the most recent Thursday Next novel on my bedside table. I’d read more books but I also discovered magazines a few years ago…

    I read before bedtime and sneak time in when I get home, or during commercials of the few shows I watch, or while eating meals, or while I’m giving the baby her bottle.

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  • Jay

    I could not agree more. I could never understand how people could go through their lives not reading after high school besides text messages of course. I keep a list of books I read and even rate them and give them fake awards (I am a geek I realize.)My favorite quote:

    “When I get money, I buy books. If there is any left over, I buy clothes and food.”

    • Love the quote, Jay! As a teen, I used to think of my allowance money in terms of how many books I could buy with it…

  • I agree wholeheartedly. I was an avid read all throughout my childhood and, to this day, there is still an indescribable feeling of wonder when I pick up a book.

    There is something magical about a book, and I wish everybody could experience that same feeling. It’s unfortunate that many people do not take the time to read anymore.

  • Great article!

    My, I was such an avid reader up until my Freshman year in high school. I used to easily polish off one medium-sized novel in one night. But since then, my reading habits have dwindled. And if I do read, it is usually some book for some class. But I think that students, whether in high school or college, shouldn’t just consider assigned books as actual “reading.” They need to pick up some book that interests them, and isn’t for a grade. Not a newspaper, because sometimes we need an escape from reality and all of the news focused around disasters.

    Books provide an escape from reality, something every human needs once in a while. Every person should attempt to read at least five novels a year.

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  • Turn off the Television – what a fantastic idea!

    I once heard reports that the average American watches 6 hours of television a day! First it starts in the morning while people get ready for work and eat breakfast.

    Then they come home from work and turn the tube on again while eating dinner until later that night…. it adds up pretty fast. I think if you’re going to be watching that much TV, you may as well be married to the TV….

    I now pronounce you Husband & TV.

  • I never used to like to read. But now, I can’t imagine passing a day without reading at least a few pages of a book. Whenever I can afford more time, I read a few chapters a day.

    There’s tremendous valuable lessons we can extract from all the good books out there and we’ll be doing ourselves a great disservice if we don’t learn from them to expand our mind as well as our life.

    Cheers~

    Mark

  • William

    Good as always…and I suggest this site that I use to download some books for FREE. http://www.4share.com

    Have a nice weekend!

  • Hi There

    I absolutely love reading. The funny thing is that I hated it as a kid. The bug caught up with me later on in life.

    I take a book where ever I go – just in case there is an opportunity to read.

    Acutally, I’d like to increase my reading speed in order to get more read.

    Juliet

  • There’s so many valuable lessons we can learn in all the good books out there that we will be doing ourselves a great DISSERVICE if we don’t capitalise on them to expand our mind and our life.

    Cheers~

    Mark

  • Everything that I would like to say about reading has been well-said in Ali’s article. I would like to add 1 point: the pleasure of re-reading. I read anything and everything that is printed, and over 5 decades I have found a long list of books that are not only profitable and pleasurable to read, but also profitable and pleasurable to re-read and re-read.

    Here’s my favourite quote on reading:

    And hostage from the future took
    In trained thought and lore of book.
    — John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-bound, A Winter Idyl

  • I read a lot. I don’t like the ficiton books, I think they are waste of time.

    I only read self-help books from the authors that are higher in personal development stages. This way I can progress in my self improvement and teach others too.

    But I think it’s important to think for yourself too.

    • Well-written fiction is far better than self-improvement books. I used to read lots of self-improvement books but I cannot remember any of them except perhaps Napoleon Hill’s Laws of Success.

      On the other hand I profted from and still remember vividly many great works of fiction. Reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch, for instance, makes me see life differently. So has reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. These and other novels have benefited me tremendously.

      Try it — read ’em. Happy New Year!

    • 100%Bookworm

      Well, Simona Rich, I’m just about the opposite of you. I absolutely adore ficition books, and even though I got glasses because of my precious books, I still think it’s well worth it, although now I’m more careful about my reading. Non-fiction books to me are basically just boring, with a few exceptions. But my opinions will probably change over the years.

  • I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I have an hour-long commute so I rent audio books from the library. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing and I can keep moving down my list of books to read.

    Good post.

  • I’m a neuroscientist and I can say with certainty that reading is very good for your cognitive abilities. I’m not just talking about reading dry-fact-laced-non-fiction either. Fiction, as long as it’s engaging can be very stimulating, forcing you to recall sights, sounds, smells and tastes from your previous experiences to help synthesize an entire world in your mind. From the page to the brain. I wrote a lot about this earlier on how to generate an emotional response through writing.

    Contrast this with watching TV which is largely a passive exercise where all the hard work of presenting stimuli to you is taken care of.

    Patrick

  • Kirsten

    I always carry a book with me. You never know when you’re going to be stuck waiting for someone, waiting in line, etc. Waiting doesn’t bother me as long as I have my book. I read during my bus commute, and when I have meals alone.

    Most of the books I was forced to read in school weren’t that interesting to me, or were just hard to understand. Guess I never got the hang of 19th century writing styles. Alas, that’s what everyone is exposed to, and I’m sure a lot of people think ALL books are like that.

    But judging from the comments, it seems we’re all preaching to the choir. How do we get the word out to the non-readers??

  • Interesting article. There also was a study on how reading novels is good for you. I wrote about it on my site:

    http://joeflood.com/2008/08/03/reading-novels-is-good-for-you/

  • I would LOVE to know where that information about the average American’s reading habits, or lack of, came from. I really would.
    Everyone I know reads. And we discuss with one another what we are currently reading. Including my and their children.
    I was in Borders yesterday. I dropped over $50 there and from what I saw when I was there American’s aren’t holding back when it comes to buying books. I thought it was very interesting considering this is the post-Christmas lull.The store had plenty of patrons.
    Does anyone actually know where that “Amerians don’t read” information came from?

  • I’m a *huge* fan of audio learning. In fact, I’ve probably listened to 100+ books in the last five years on audio. It’s a great way to fill gaps in the day such as when you’re washing dishes or cleaning up around the house.

    I love it so much that I started LearnOutLoud back in 2005 to help people find good ways to learn on audio! :)

  • By reading books, we are allowing ourselves to pick up new knowledge and ideas in a much lesser time compared to learning through trials and errors.

    Personally I read during the time I commute as I found that doing nothing during I commute is a total waste of time and sometime we can really spend quite an amount of time on the move.

    I had read an article on whether people are reading enough these days and also 5 tips to help you kick start your reading habit. You can read more here…

    http://www.healthmoneysuccess.com/284/are-your-reading-enough/

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  • Elm

    I in complete agreement: reading a good book is one of those rare opportunities in these hectic and noisy times to quiet the mind and immerse ourselves in a very personal and unique journey. Books rely on our own imagination and intuition rather than spoon-feeding us what it is we are supposed to see, feel and believe. That is not to say I don’t enjoy a great movie but nothing is quite as intoxicating as a great book and that feeling at the end: I wish it didn’t have to end…

  • nice post, i do read while having launch :)

  • I love reading but ever since I became a mom reading becomes more and more difficult, I sometimes read out loud to my daughter (11 months) so it doesn’t really matter as long as I make interesting sounds and noises she enjoys it.

  • Getting up early really helps too. But you have to find a way to wake yourself up in the morning.

    I find that when I get up at 7am, I have an extra 2 hours before I fire off to school that I can read-provided I don’t get distracted with my site maintenance.

  • (i)

    Good article! I love reading books as well, but there were times that I had ‘no time’ (all in the mind, I think) or energy to do so. Since last October I started commuting by public transport – allowing for twice 45 minutes of reading a day, plus the occasional long journey in the weekend. On top of that, I decided not to watch TV in January. It is so amazing how much time opens up – at least half of it is now spent reading, the other half by keeping up social contacts and sleeping as much as I should to function well. And I am really not missing out on anything by leaving the TV off. O no, wait, I am no longer able to participate in conversations about commercials. What a burden. /sarcasm

    Usually, I have a heavy (as in weight) book to read at home – requiring something to hold it up while reading. Then, there is a pocket book in my bag for travelling. I read all kinds of books, favourites being fiction about other ways of life in other countries and other times, non-fiction books on improving the quality of life in one way or another and biographies of interesting people.

    I also like to read in other languages which helps me keep up on and improve said languages. I’m not a native English speaker, but do read a lot of English, as well as French and German. Now, I’m actually learning Spanish so I can read Spanish books in the original language.

  • Wonderful ideas and thoughts! Thanks, Ali. =-)

    I agree with all of your points. I have to personally remember to PUT DOWN the self help books, and books that I think would be GREAT for my clients (so I check them out first), and read a little smut now and again. I like to bury myself in fiction as an escape. This post reminds me I’ve got a few in my log waiting to be cracked open!

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  • Absolutely right books not only give thoughts to but as well as it creates our thoughts to improve personality.

  • bookloverann

    I have always been an extremely voracious reader. It started when I was about 2, and I couldn’t read so I would just pick books up off the shelf and make words up that went along with the pictures I saw. Wherever I go, I carry a book with me so that I will always have it if I want to read.

  • I just cant stop reading this.

  • Lan

    Indeed! I’m a bookworm too. :) Thank you for writing this awesome piece.

  • Lan

    …If I may add, when you are in response to the call of nature, you can do nothing but sit on the bowl right, why not grab a book or any reading material? :) It’s my one way of making time to read.

  • One thing I’d really like to say is always that car insurance cancellations is a feared experience so if you’re doing the proper things as being a driver you simply will not get one. A lot of people do receive the notice that they are officially dropped by the insurance company and many have to scramble to get more insurance after the cancellation. Low cost auto insurance rates are frequently hard to get after having a cancellation. Understanding the main reasons regarding auto insurance cancelling can help drivers prevent getting rid of in one of the most crucial privileges accessible. Thanks for the tips shared through your blog.

  • Miranda

    Thank you for helping write my Original Oratory about why you should read fiction books!! …Im a bit of a bookworm too!

    • Jon Marquand

      Miranda,

      I write fiction and the people reading my stories love them. So many of the people commenting are looking for time to read. I write stories of aciton, adventure and other interests and keep the story moving from start to finish. I have now completed 55 books that an average reader reads within two to four hours. My company is http://www.shortflightnovels.com

      Jon P. Marquand

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  • Craig Seasholes

    Finding….no making time is such a glorious pursuit. I love how “the Book Whisperer” makes time in school day to capture time for reading. Nice posting.

  • Alex Lee

    I like reading because it helps with my learning.Over these years,I have read lots of books such as Harry potter,diary of a wimpy kid and lots more.Reading can be the fourth important thing in your life.

    • Vincent

      You rock!I like your explanation!

  • alx3570

    I like reading because it helps with my learning.Over these years,I have read lots of books such as Harry potter,diary of a wimpy kid and lots more.Reading can be the fourth important thing in your life even so it can be the fifth important thing.

  • TheOneAndOnlyBookworm

    This is soooo true! I totally agree. I am, and have always been, a bookworm.  This article was really well written. It just goes to show how reading can really help you write! :)

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  • Vidhyachandhru

    Can anyone suggest me some good children’s novels in English?

    • Silver

      Matilda, The Secret Garden, Little Women, Chronicles of Narnia should be a good place to start.

  • Alan

    Great article and many valid points that I plan on implementing.

  • Kuopese Girl

    I agee because I really love reading and I learn alot of new ideas and so on!:D

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  • also

    Reading is for the brain what playing scales on the piano is for the fingers. Keeps you limber, fresh, in the zone.