There are many reasons for reading and equally many ways to choose a book to read.
We read for knowledge. We read as a chore to be gotten through for school or work. We read for fun.
Now, we don’t always have to decide why read a particular book. But usually there is an underlying reason. Often times we have repeated the action so many times, we forget the why or intent behind it – it’s all just words on a page to be read.
Choosing to live an intentional life is a growing practice. Essentially the practice of Mindfulness, the aim is to bring awareness to our actions and be present in the moment. Reading mindfully, or with a specific intention or aim can help us decide what to read next, and to gain the most from our precious time with our chosen book.
1. Why Read for Knowledge?
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
Many times we need to read to gain knowledge. At school or college preset reading lists are not always guaranteed to delight. Science texts can be dry and sleep inducing. Setting an intention to learn before reading for knowledge will improve focus and perhaps enjoyment as you appreciate the importance of your reading.
Choosing to read for knowledge can bring some of the best minds and teachers in the world into your home to teach you personally, via the simple format of a book. You can become an expert in a field by reading books, articles and published papers. Few people have read five books on the same topic so just reading 5 books in one area will make you a relative expert very quickly.
Likewise, choosing to learn more about your profession or company’s industry and business can result in promotion, increased income and recognition, all of which you can use to feed your new reading habit.
And you’d be amazed at the little bits of knowledge you can pick up in the most unlikely places. Quality Historical romances can teach you about history and life in other times. Popular crime novels such as Sherlock Holmes revolve around logical analytical thinking, evidence gathering and occasionally police or legal procedures, even though most people read them just for pleasure.
2. Why Read for Personal Growth?
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones
In other words, who you will be in 5 years depends heavily on what you put into your brain and body. The only ways to put things into your brain is through experiences. Reading expands your ability to add experiences outside of your control or even outside this reality.
Scientific research shows that reading will make you more empathetic, find it easier to relate to others, and help you understand what others are thinking. Research further suggests this is a greater benefit in reading literary fiction, as opposed to non-fiction.
So set an intention to grow, learn about yourself, life, success, philosophy as well as other people and the world around you in one simple format – a book.
3. Why Read for Inspiration?
Many creative people say reading will help you generate ideas. Whilst everyone will do this differently and use different books, we can generate ideas from learning how others do things; even how to read for inspiration.
Twyla Tharp (The Creative Habit) reads archeologically for inspiration. She reads backwards in time; like conducting an archaeological dig. She explains in her book this means she will read a contemporary book, then move to the book that predated it, or inspired it; going back until she is reading ancient texts, hunting “the original idea in its ancient and most unadulterated form.”
Reading sideways to related texts, subjects or authors, or ‘reading fat’ as Twyla calls it can also spark ideas in the most unexpected places.
Inspiration usually strikes when we least expect it, and the joining of disparate pieces of information can produce outstanding results. The 1988 film the Working Girl demonstrates this perfectly when the secretary links a gossip item about a radio disc jockey, a piece on a company looking for acquisitions, and the company founder’s daughter’s wedding. From this a merger idea is born and set in motion by gate crashing the wedding.
Setting an intention to read for inspiration sets the environment for the mind to be open, connective and ready to receive.
4. Why Read for Intelligence
Who doesn’t want increased intelligence? Twins studies have shown that early reading ability can be linked to improved verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability (intelligence) as children grow up. In summary, reading not only expands vocabulary, but has a profound effect on cognitive skills. So clearly reading with the intention of increasing intelligence is not only a good idea but an important reason to read.
For more ideas on books to read that will make you smarter click here.
5. Why Read for Pleasure?
Why read for pleasure? Because its fun!
Side benefits include reducing stress, improving depression and dementia symptoms, lower blood pressure, relaxation, laughter and humor. And thanks to many local libraries or free online resources, it can even be free! That’s a pleasure.
The intention to read for pleasure can be a valuable part of your evening ritual to signal your body it’s time to relax and go to sleep. (Just be sure to read paper books before bed, not electronic ones as research shows the electronic screens actually delay sleep.)
If you need more reasons to read just for pleasure, research also shows that reading for pleasure has a positive impact on educational outcomes. Research has also found that reading for pleasure can also result in increased empathy, improved relationships and well being including reductions in symptoms of depression and dementia.
With the discovery that our brains are constantly changing and able to grow new connections at any age (neuroplasticity) it’s never too late to exercise our brains as well as our bodies.
Why read for just one reason when there are so many benefits to reading for all reasons? Read for any reason and reap the many benefits from expanding our intelligence to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.