Pick a publication — The New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Book Riot, GeekWire, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal — and you’ll find a “Best of” list for books published in 2016 or endorsements for novels being prepped for release. As a Twitter follower of all things books-related, the plethora of lists being posted this year at first seemed silly. Then I did a little research.
Taking the long view, I realize these publications aren’t filling their features pages with evergreen stories because half their staff was on vacation for the holidays. These publications have been looking out for our best interest. It turns out, reading is more than introvert merrymaking or unproductive idleness.
Studies published last year in Yale University’s journal of Social Science & Medicine and the University of Toronto’s Trends in Cognitive Sciences reveal reading books could extend one’s lifespan by 2 years and reading fiction, specifically, could increase empathy. Of course, this doesn’t mean reading a page here and there is going to improve your life. Researchers reported lifespan increases in those who read at least 3.5 hours a week.
Why is empathy important? In general, empathy improves communication in boardrooms, on our city streets and at dining room tables. According to a Businesssolver study, employees who believe they work for empathetic employers are more likely to work longer hours, accept lower pay and stay with a company. However, while 60 percent of CEOs view their companies as empathetic, only 25 percent of employees agree.
With that in mind, perhaps you should make this the year you commit to reading that stack at your bedside or perusing the racks at your local independent bookstore. No; there’s no need to schlep through James Joyce’s Ulysses or race through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series if those sorts of novels don’t appeal to you. Find something that suits your personality, your current state of mind or mimics (maybe even opposes) your point of view.
Perhaps this is the year you join a book club, get recommendations your local independent bookseller or participate in a Goodreads.com reading challenge, the site offers recommendations based on your previous books. Just read. Learn something. Grow.
Need more suggestions? Quartz has some tips to get you started.
Yes, absolutely yes! Gaining multiple perspectives through the stories of others. I will no longer feel guilty to pick up a fictional novel. It’s healthy and important, empathy-building, strengthening of our lives! Thanks for this thought!
Doctoral Candidate Ph.D. in Music Education Oakland University Director, Sing Praise Choirs Collaborative Pianist
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