By Beth Clark • January 07, 2019
Aside from the obvious self-help category, books make life better in so many ways that it's hard to imagine existing without them…so we won't! Thankfully, we don't have to. Here are just some of the ways that reading books is as essential as, oh, breathing.
1. Books are always there for you...and they never judge. Ever. And books make you laugh, cry, and feel all the feels in between. There's a certain comfort in knowing that the majority of the time, there's a happy ending waiting for you. Alternatively, sometimes dark books without happy endings can be a way to work through anger or frustration that you don't have another outlet for. That's the beauty of books—there's something for everyone, about everything and anything.
2. Books can help you feel...normal. Or at least less alone. And be the ultimate reset button when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed…you go in the front cover full of angst and come out the back cover feeling like it's all going to be okay because Atticus killed the rabid dog, the racists are defeated, and Boo Radley turned out to be a gentle, compassionate person with a pure heart.
3. Books are one of the best ways there is to have fun with kids, teach them life skills, help them become people who will thrive, and forge bonds that will withstand the hormonal forces of the teen years. Reading to them and with them from the time they're babies until they're old enough to move out is eternally worth every minute spent doing it, even when you're exhausted. Or annoyed. And eventually, they can read to you…who doesn't love a good bedtime story? Plus, books can make uncomfortable conversations easier by giving you a side angle to approach from in addition to the direct one.
4. Books make you think. And reshape the way you think. And change what you think. Which inspires you to do and be better and become the person you want to be when you grow up. Books can literally (pun intended) transform your life by causing an awakening or a paradigm shift, or by teaching you the skills to navigate work, social, and home situations. They have a way of making you look at things internally and/or externally that maybe you'd rather not but need to. Personal growth has an annoying habit of catapulting you outside of your comfort zone, but only because when you're in it, you're comfortable, and change doesn't feel urgent.
5. Books provide you with an escape when you need it and can be the calm in a raging storm, literally and metaphorically. Snowed in? Recovering from surgery? Going through a breakup? Experiencing an introversion? Reading a book or ten can help you stay grounded and sane during life's inevitable ups and downs. Maybe not on their own but being drawn into the pages of a good book can quiet a mind that's in hyperdrive just enough to let it rest for a bit.
6. Books take you to real places you've never been and to imaginary places you've never dreamt of but would travel to in a heartbeat if you could. Which can inspire you to travel, which leads to learning things about other cultures, states, and countries, which expands your horizons in ways that can excite you to inspire others, which makes the world a better place, because understanding leads to increased tolerance and compassion. Which matters when 7 billion people share one planet.
7. Books are an innate way to connect with other adults, and something to talk about besides kids, politics, and the weather. (Unless they're books about kids, politics, or the weather, in which case, did we mention the 13 million titles you could choose something else from?) Even if you don't discuss the books themselves, hearing what someone is reading—or seeing their #TBR stack—reveals a LOT about them, and vice versa. For instance, if you have Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes, Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore, Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the US Patent Office by David Pressman, and L'Alchimista by Paul Coelho sitting on your coffee table, you might be a slightly irreverent Italian-speaker with some big ideas. If everything in your stack is 25 pages or less, you obviously have little kids afoot. And if your stack is all horror—like Bird Box—or true crime—like Party Monster—you might be working through something. Or you're really good at picking page to screen hits. Either way.
8. Fictional history can be every bit as moving as it is accurate. Non-fiction history books are some of the best teachers there are, with pages full of tales, discoveries, and lessons learned the hard way, so that maybe current and future generations won't have to. Emerging technology and research lead to new knowledge about old things, and events and ideas that have been considered iron-clad for centuries can be completely upended. (Which prompts the writing of new history books.)
9. Books can make you a fly on the wall and privy to things inside the worlds of people you admire that you wouldn't be otherwise. CEOs, celebrities, athletes, and others are often willing to be surprisingly candid—even downright vulnerable—on the pages of memoirs or autobiographies. An impressive percentage of them have pretty fascinating stories that are worth the time it takes to read them. Authorized biographies can also make for interesting reads. Ditto with unauthorized versions, especially if the subject is someone super famous or controversial. Sure, they're tabloid-ish, but mostly harmless as far as guilty pleasures go.
10. Books that double as décor elements (ahem, all of them!) can shape your physical environment as much as your mental one, and—get this—there are books about decorating with books! All the more reason to love them. (Not that you need more, just sayin'.)
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