The general benefits of reading and education tend to be most visible in their absence. As ProLiteracy has found, low literacy is associated with poverty. From costs of $225 billion due to low literacy in the workforce to $230 billion in costs from low health literacy, the cost of not reading is staggering.
What people talk about even less are the benefits of reading – and especially the different benefits of what you read. For avid and voracious readers, illiteracy is not the problem – choosing what to read is! Especially in the 21st century, when every other library has an app for checking out books digitally and the Internet gives us a plethora of reading options online. Now that it has never been easier to read whatever you want, whenever you want, and wherever you want, modern readers are overwhelmed with choices.
How’s a modern bookworm supposed to choose?
Well, one way to narrow down your reading list is to look at the health benefits of different kinds of books. Finding out what you want more of in your life and reading books accordingly is a great place to start.
5 Types of Books and The Benefits of Reading Them
The variety of books is nearly as limitless as the books themselves. We could devote the entire website to talking about every type of book imaginable – and likely never get them all. Still, everyone needs to start somewhere.
Below are 5 types of beneficial books, including how they can improve your life:
1. Biographical Nonfiction
Biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, epistolary works, and other similar kinds of books are a particular subset of history. History focuses on events, including the causes and effects of them. Biographies follow the stories of people’s lives, both when they are in historical events. But more importantly, their lives before and after they made history.
Few people can honestly say they have always been great people, living astounding lives. It’s easy for us to compare ourselves to celebrities, historical figures and other icons we aspire to be like. Just as easy, and just as human, is to feel downtrodden when we compare our mundane or broken lives with their accomplishments. It makes them seem out of reach for us ‘mere mortals’.
When reading a book that follows these icons’ entire lives, we cannot escape just how false that comparison is. These great people who accomplished so much, for good or for ill, often faced struggles similar to our own. With their mistakes as great or greater than our own, and personal lives as messy and broken as anyone else’s.
Biographical nonfiction can uplift, not by telling us that our messy lives don’t have to get in the way of greatness, but by showing us.
Barack Obama had an awkward first date, was born into a splintered family and was raised by a single mom in a discriminatory society. Seeing how his own personal life was not nearly as historical as the man himself turned out to be, becomes much easier for us to reach our own greatness.
2. Social and Cultural Books
Empathy is not just a psychiatric buzzword. From better human relations to better communication, the ability to put oneself in other people’s shoes and actually understand their worldview is practically a superpower.
Employers are starting to look for empathy among applicants. Even when workplaces are expected to be places with minimal emotions and no vulnerability.
As The Prospect explains, reading books about groups, societies, and cultures other than your own – or other than what you typically see a lot of in pop-culture and fiction – is a window into the many worlds that exist alongside our own.
Discussions about nonfiction works are not just theoretical or philosophical disputes. These are real-world people, facing real troubles and triumphs, which we might otherwise never know about. This subset of nonfiction challenges our assumptions about people whose lives we never see. In doing so, it knocks down our propensity for judgment, and the ultimate assumption that what we see in someone else is all there is to see.
3. Comic Books
Comics might seem to be a strange recommendation on an article about reading. After all, isn’t the point of comic books and graphic novels that you don’t have to read so much? This is a very shallow understanding of what reading actually is. Reading is not just words in isolation, but comprehending the context these words, sentences and scenes are in.
Think back to the last time you drove or walked through an unfamiliar city. How often did you have to read street signs, keep an eye on your environment and keep track of where you were? Strange as this may sound, this way of navigating the world is very similar to how we read comic books.
Humans rarely experience anything in isolation, and comic books teach us to process multiple senses and types of communication at once.
An English professor at the University of Windsor found that comic books teach us how to process visual, spatial and textual information all at once.
4. Rereading Children’s Books
There are many benefits for adults to read children’s books. However, there are some particular benefits to rereading books from your own childhood. Especially the ones we might have loved and been impacted by but rarely read again.
To paraphrase this New York writer quoting a Yale professor, going back to a great book we read in our childhood is a reminder that we can miss things in the experiences and events of our lives. Not to mention misunderstand the people in them.
For example, in the later Harry Potter books, young readers often dismiss Harry’s yelling and outbursts as immature, irrational anger. And they find his friends and family as unwilling victims of it. As an adult, there is no mistaking what is really going on: PTSD, and the uglier effects of trauma. In this new light, one cannot help but think of other seemingly “always angry” people in our lives. How many of them are struggling to cope with trauma?
5. Young Adult Fiction
Young adult fictions provide lessons about change and growth that all adults could stand to be reminded of.
In a world that increasingly tells us our entire lives are determined by nature and our backgrounds, YA lit reminds us of the endless human capacity for growth and that we can shape our own futures