Did you know that reading can have many beneficial impacts on your mental and physical health, in addition to helping you academically? That’s right! Reading in your spare time can be very good for you, and can be a great pastime if you get bored easily. Reading is an important part of your education as a college student, but it doesn’t just have to be something you do for your classes. Here’s a list of reasons why reading outside of your schoolwork can be very beneficial as well as a list of books recommended by the RWC staff if you don’t know where to get started!
First, reading can improve your communication and “soft” skills, which can be essential in almost any area of life. Whether it’s working retail during the holidays, interviewing for a job, interacting with your friends and family, discussing your recent grade with your professor, or anything else that involves speaking in some form, these skills are very beneficial.
When you read books, your brain naturally begins to adopt the mannerisms you see in the text. So, in other words, if you see correct grammar while you’re reading (which you most likely are if you’re reading a published book), your brain understands those correct grammar forms, and learns it so you use it in conversation, without you even realizing it. No wonder people who read a lot oftentimes have the best grammar when they’re speaking!
Many studies have shown the benefits of reading on your mental health - for example, it reduces stress. Studies show that reading can be more effective in reducing stress than something like having a cup of tea and that even reading for as little as six minutes can greatly lessen your anxiety. Additionally, it’s a well-known fact that reading can help you sleep better - so if you’re up late tossing and turning because you just can’t fall asleep, consider opening up a novel to peruse! Reading can also improve your empathy skills. There’s nothing like reading a good book to place yourself into someone else’s shoes, and if you do that all the time it helps you better understand those around you in a way you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. This helps you be able to know people better, even the people you don’t like!
But aiding your mental health isn’t the only thing reading can do; it can also strengthen you physically. Reading is like taking your brain to the gym - it improves your memory, vocabulary, and conversational skills. It’s no wonder why people who read can speak so well; they read so much that they’ve learned to adapt their language to their setting, resulting in their ability to speak fluently in that language, whether that’s English or something else.
In addition to all these wonderful benefits, a bunch of different studies have shown that reading can lessen anxiety and depression and has been proven to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Reading can help to calm you down if you’ve had a stressful or difficult day, and can provide an escape to another world if you pick the right one!
Whether it’s Animal Farm by George Orwell or Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, there are plenty of books out there happy to whisk you off to a faraway land if you want it to. So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the next page for some ideas on what books to start with, recommended by our very own Reading & Writing Center staff members!
Don't know where to get started? Here are some books you can read that have been recommended by our staff!
Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tamnet -
Recommended by Dr. Deb Borofka
Representative of the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities
Genre: Memoir/Creative Nonfiction
Summary: "Daniel was born in England into a large family, and was one of many the siblings who was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder. He is a brilliant mathematician and language scholar. This is an amazing story of neuro-atypical who makes his way into the larger world and THRIVES!"
Awards / Quotes about the book: "With all due respect to Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and any living Nobel laureates, the most remarkable mind on the planet just might belong to Daniel Tammet...Tammet displays a surprising level of sensitivity -- and a refreshing lack of sentimentality -- in an account that inspires even as it astonishes." -- Entertainment Weekly
Quote from Dr. Borofka: "If you like stories about real-life people and how they overcome challenges, you will LOVE this!"
The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman
- Recommended by Monte Brogdon
Genre: True Crime
Summary: "Part-memoir, part-true crime, this story takes place in the sixties and details Liza Rodman's summers in the Cape Cod area where she was often looked after by a man named Tony Costa, who was found to be a notorious and brutal serial killer."
Quote from Monte: "It's morbid and might not be for everyone, but it is definitely an important and interesting read."
No-No Boy by John Okada
- Recommended by Stephanie D.
Representative of the BIPOC community (specifically Asian-Americans)
Genre: Asian American Studies, Literature/Fiction (publisher's description)
Summary: "The novel takes place shortly after WWII in Washington State; it follows the story of Ichiro Yamada, a young Japanese American man who is just released from prison for having refused to serve in the US military. During his imprisonment, his family was sent to an American internment camp for Japanese Americans. It discusses identity, what it means to be American, the "American dream," balancing nationality and culture, and more. This was the only novel written by John Okada; it was published in 1957, reads like a modern novel, but gained recognition in the 1970s."
Awards/Quotes about the book: "It is critically acclaimed by authors and publications. Reviews can be found here: (Note, the University of Washington Press is the edition to buy; the Penguin edition of the book doesn't pay royalties to the Okada estate)."
Quote from Stephanie: "I read this novel in Spring 2020 when I was taking an Asian-American literature class at Fresno State. It's one of the stories I think about nearly every day. More than ever, Asian-American voices must be uplifted and heard. Okada's novel is groundbreaking and maybe even life-changing."
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
- Recommended by Iman Alamri
Representative of the LGBTQ+ community and the BIPOC community
Genre: YA Fiction
Summary: "Radio Silence is about this high-achieving teenager named Frances. She's convinced that academics is her future but she has a passion for art. She's obsessed with a science fiction podcast, then coincidentally meets the creator of said podcast. The book follows their friendship as well as Frances' aspirations after high school. The book has strong themes of friendship and self-identity. Frances is a character that is struggling to find herself while hiding who she truly is. All the characters are easily relatable, diverse characters with unique & relatable backgrounds. The author, Alice Oseman, has quickly summarized the book as: 'RADIO SILENCE is my second YA novel! It features: - A high-achieving teenage girl who believes her future lies in academia - Her learning that sometimes there are other paths through life and learning to embrace her passion for art - the shy, mysterious creator of a science-fiction audio drama podcast - A friendship between a boy and a girl where they don't fall in love - A critique of the way the education system brainwashes teens into believing that if they don't get good grades, they're destined for failure and misery'"
Quote from Iman: "I read this book over the summer and I instantly fell in love. Frances is such a relatable character. I found myself bookmarking many times where I related to something on a personal level. As someone who is extremely academic-achieving with a side hustle as a fangirl, it seems like Frances was written about me. It was refreshing to read a YA novel that the two main boy and girl characters don't fall in love, showing that not every boy/girl friendship has to end with love. Platonic soulmates exist! Also, diverse characters. Frances is BIPOC & LGBTQ+ as well as the other characters in this novel. Beautifully written. My new favorite book!"
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
- Recommended by Hannah Leece
Representative of the BIPOC community (specifically Korean-Americans) - also good if you'd like to get into a new series!
Genre: YA Fiction, romantic comedy, teen
Summary: "Lara Jean Covey is a junior in high school who has never been in a relationship, but she loves reading - and writing - about them. Anytime she has a strong connection romantically with someone, she writes a love letter to them that she keeps in a box in her room. She has five in total - Peter Kavinsky, the boy who’s dating the "mean girl" of her high school, Josh Sanderson - Lara’s best friend and her sister’s recently-turned ex-boyfriend - and three others. When the letters suddenly get out one day, chaos ensues, and Lara Jean must face the consequences."
Awards/Quotes about the book: New York Times Bestselling Author; additionally, the book became the first of a trilogy film series on Netflix starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, the third film having been released this past February.
Quote from Hannah: "This series is so cute! I love every one of the books and I’ve seen the film more times than I can count. Lara Jean is so relatable yet so surprising at every turn, and the romances that arise during the series are very swoon-worthy (although I can’t give anything away about who they’re with). Also, in the film, Peter Kavinsky is played by the astounding Noah Centineo, who continues to amaze me with his acting. This is one of those feel-good books that are funny and relatable yet profound."
If you'd like more information about how reading can be beneficial to your health, check out the articles below!
Tabackman, Lia, and Rebecca Mannis. “5 Ways Reading Benefits Your Health - and How to Make Reading a Daily Habit.” Insider, Insider, 3 Dec. 2020, https://www.insider.com/benefits-of-reading#:~:text=When%20humans%20read%2C%20we%20create,that%20contribute%20to%20memory%20functioning.
Stanborough, Rebecca Joy. “Benefits of Reading Books: For Your Physical and Mental Health.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 Oct. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books.
“Read a Book, Preserve Your Memory.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health Publishing, 1 Oct. 2013, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/read-a-book-preserve-your-memory.