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:


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.


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…


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