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Has Reading Regularly Helped You or Improved Your Life?

Thing(amabrarian)s That Go Bump in the Night

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1ScribbleScribe
Edited: Nov 9, 2011, 10:11pm Top

I'm just curious.

I've been reading too much Dean Koontz lately to be able to say , other than I try to look up vocabulary I don't know every time I come across an unfamiliar term.

So maybe it's expanded my vocabulary.

I also try to figure out what the author is thinking as I read their writing.

2tjm568
Nov 10, 2011, 12:32am Top

I certainly think that reading regularly has positive effects on your mental abilities. When you are reading you are learning whether you like it or not. The question in my mind is whether the benefits of reading outweigh the benefits of doing other stuff. For a kid, I think reading is hugely important. Not only do kids need to become proficient in mastering this most basic of information transfer, but all testing they take that will determine their eligibilty for higher education depends on their ability to read and synthesize information. That being said....

My father, also an avid reader has lamented that I have followed in his footsteps as a reader. He has often pointed out others that he knows that don't read anything beyond instuctional manuscripts or engineering schematics. These people, he claims, spend their free time building stuff; and I have to agree, they do. Probably have never read a book for pleasure in their lives. But instead they fill their free time tinkering and building stuff. Sometimes I wish I was better at tinkering (certainly would have helped when the lawn mower suddenly gave up the ghost recently).

So back to the question whether reading has helped or improved my life. I guess the obvious answer to that question is that I can't imagine my life without reading. Reading has been my passion since I was young. I grew up in a great and loving family, but there were six kids and sometimes I needed an escape. As I grew older and the world became more difficult, reading was always a way to find peace and escape. I am a generally happy person with a great family of my own now, but I still crave the release that submerging myself in a book brings.

So yes, reading has improved my life.

3jseger9000
Nov 10, 2011, 12:37am Top

I would say yes (I can't imagine anyone on this site saying 'no'. Can you?), of course.

Reading has broadened my mind, helped me better understand other cultures, taught me about history, informed my philosophical and ideological outlook (thanks Steinbeck!) and keeps my brain from atrophying away.

Think of anybody you know who is a regular reader. Now think of anyone you know who never reads. Who do you believe has the more agile mind?

4paradoxosalpha
Nov 10, 2011, 9:43am Top

Reading cultivates imagination, curiosity, patience, and other worthwhile qualities.

Reading is a virtue. Book collecting is a vice. (And a very fine vice, at that!)

5BruceCoulson
Nov 10, 2011, 10:49am Top

>4 paradoxosalpha:

A very expensive vice as well.

I grew up around people who openly boasted that they hadn't cracked a book since high school. People who didn't have any reading material whatsoever in their house (not even a newspaper; if they had Bible, it was not on display).

If nothing else, reading is cheap entertainment that doesn't require anything but a source of light and a book.

6jseger9000
Edited: Nov 10, 2011, 12:02pm Top

I worked with a lady that said "I don't read and I don't expect my kids will read either."

Like that is a point of pride rather than a source of shame.

7artturnerjr
Nov 10, 2011, 4:21pm Top

Oh yeah, absolutely. I think there's a kind of cognitive development that takes place when you read a long narrative (doesn't have to be fiction, either - it can be biography, history, memoir, whatever) that is essential to reaching your full potential as a human being, and I think it needs to be engaged in more than ever today when the internet and social media are increasingly programming our brains to take a dangerously shallow view of the world around us. It needs to be balanced with other activities, too, of course, but I think there's a kind of satisfation you get from finishing a really great book that transcends just about everything else in life.

8Booksloth
Nov 11, 2011, 7:40am Top

#6 Poor kids - I feel desperately sorry for them.

I could write a book on the benefits of reading - aquired knowledge, aquired vocabulary, improved spelling and grammar etc (though it doesn't work for everyone, witness many LT posts) but, to me, the most important benefit to come out of reading fiction is the increase in empathy. In the face of tragedy, the standard response these days is "I can't imagine what they must be going through". I don 't think that is really 100% true, though. Of course it takes first-hand experience to completely understand any situation but fiction does tell us what it is like to experience joy and despair, love and hate, peace and terror, frequently in circumstances that are alien to us. Novel reading gives us an insight into how other people - often people who share nothing of our own experience - think and feel and that is where empathy begins. While we cannot hope or expect to fully understand what anyone else is going through, I believe novel-reading (and also biography-reading) can enable us to imagine how we might feel or react in any given situation and to empathise with those whose experience we don't share.

9bibliobeck
Nov 24, 2011, 3:33pm Top

#6 great point Booksloth

Absolutely reading improves my life - and I don't think it matters what people read. Sometimes people who know I read *a lot* have appologetically said 'oh I only read trashy novels'... like I'm going to judge them! Quite frankly I'll read the back of a cereal packet if it's the only thing to hand. It doesn't matter - I read classics, horror (obviously!), classic horror ;o), text books, non-fiction, literary tomes, recipes, knitting patterns, beach reads, airport blockbusters etc etc and each, in its own way, has enhanced my life I believe. That moment when I become 'lost' in my latest read and nothing else matters is sheer heaven in this overwhelming world.

10Booksloth
Nov 25, 2011, 6:38am Top

#9 And great point bibliobeck too! And, as if we didn't already know we're right, let's bring in the expert on the subject:
" . . . There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist . . . 'And what are you reading, Miss?' "Oh, it is only a novel!' replies the young lady . . . in short, only a work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language . . . " (Northanger Abbey)

I'm definitely not going to be the one to argue with Jane!

11Nightwater
Dec 6, 2011, 3:58pm Top

Right now, reading is more important to me than ever. Not for a very "high" reason, but because of the escape of all the stresses of everyday life. I hear enough politics, economics, scandal everyday. Give me fantasy....

12paradoxosalpha
Dec 6, 2011, 4:08pm Top

> 11

Hey, if it's escapist literature or antidepressants, you know my choice.

13Phlox72
Dec 6, 2011, 6:01pm Top

#12

Put them together and you get gold!

Reading saves my life daily. I guess I'd just about die if I couldn't read. In fact, losing the ability to read is one of my biggest fears.

14pgmcc
Dec 7, 2011, 3:10pm Top

With all this praise of fiction in the air I thought a bit of balance should be brought to the thread.

An Ursuline nun of Waterford writing in 1850 addressed her pupils:

We do not ask you never to read novels; but remember that the mere novel-reader is a useless, insipid, tasteless being. Imagination becomes her conscience, her guide, her counsellor, her God. By such reading the understanding is blinded, the heart becomes selfish, and barren of noble and affectionate feelings. Egotism, not duty, not religion, not sacred domestic love, rules the mere novel-reader.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

(Quotation from: A Guide to Irish Fiction 1650-1900 by Rolf Loeber and Magda Loeber with Anne Mullin Burnham

15quartzite
Dec 7, 2011, 9:24pm Top

Oh the horror.

16jseger9000
Dec 9, 2011, 7:01pm Top

#14 - Sounds like she didn't want people to shape their views on what they read in a book.

But suppose (like me) you consider the Bible fiction? Should I then not take instruction from it?

And here I am arguing with a hundred and fifty year old quote...

17pgmcc
Dec 10, 2011, 7:25pm Top

#16 While the bible is fiction, it is not a novel. Our Ursuline nun was targetting novels, or to be more precise, novel-readers.

Of course, the nun would not have considered the bible fiction; she would have considered it to be the bible.

18tjm568
Dec 11, 2011, 12:19am Top

jseger- Do you really consider the Bible fiction? Setting aside the religious aspects, do you feel that the Bible has no historic value. Not judging, just curious.

19petine
Dec 11, 2011, 10:17am Top

The bible is fiction. It´s a collection of myths just like the old greek, roman or norse mythology, and deserves it´s credits as such. Nuff said.

20BruceCoulson
Dec 12, 2011, 11:45am Top

A fictional work can have historical value Huckleberry Finn and so the two are not mutually exclusive.

The Bible, leaving aside any religious context, has had an enormous impact on world history.

21tjm568
Dec 12, 2011, 3:30pm Top

The bible dealt with real people, places and events. Admittedly, a religious slant has been put on everything, but I think the bible is an important historical document.

22gryeates
Dec 12, 2011, 3:41pm Top

Definitely. Without being a reader, I wouldn't be a writer and I wouldn't have learned how to express myself. The cathartic benefits of reading something like H.P. Lovecraft's The Outsider were massive for me when I was younger and I always enjoyed reading for its educational value - I like my literary learning pills where I get to learn more of the big words.

23jseger9000
Dec 12, 2011, 7:00pm Top

#18 - I hope I don't derail this conversation, but I do consider the Bible to be fiction. Or I should say philosophy, since fiction sets out to be deliberately untrue, wheras the authors of the Bible were using allegory to speak what they felt was truth.

I am not a biblical scholar in any way at all, but I would take the idea that the Bible dealt with real people, places and events with more than a grain of salt. A boulder maybe.

The Garden of Eden, the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the tower of Babel, the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, etc... the evidence goes from spotty to non-existent.

Though like #20, I don't think that something being a work of fiction means it lacks value.

24BruceCoulson
Dec 12, 2011, 7:28pm Top

I think we can stay on safe ground by admitting that the Bible has value, and has been influential. (The very idea of generalized literacy in the West stemmed from the belief that everyone should be able to read the Bible; perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of unintended consequences in history.)

25jseger9000
Dec 13, 2011, 10:45am Top

#24 - The very idea of generalized literacy in the West stemmed from the belief that everyone should be able to read the Bible

And the printing press (in the West anyway).

26tjm568
Dec 13, 2011, 11:57pm Top

The idea of generalized literacy didn't come from the church though, it was more of a response against the church. The church was perfectly happy with an ignorant, illiterate flock who had no choice but to believe what the church was reading to them. General literacy was a threat to the church because if people could read the bible themselves, they could form their own opinions. Personal opinions about scripture was certainly not something the church was in favor of. I agree with you about unintended consequences though. Just look what happened.
However, I still contend that the bible has historical value. I am not arguing that anyone needs to buy into the religious aspects. I only contend that there is some historical information that has been useful to historians, scientists and anthropologists that has been gleened from the bible. If nothing else, the origins of the stories are thousands of years old. A thousand years from now someone could derive useful information from a Stephen King book. Doesn't mean it happened, but might give a good snapshot of life in these times we live in.

27ScribbleScribe
Dec 21, 2011, 10:00am Top

oh no, people brought religion into the thread.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.

28saraslibrary
Edited: Dec 25, 2011, 10:15pm Top

Ah, no harm in that. I figured the Bible would get mentioned eventually (it's one of the world's top bestsellers after all, next to the Torah, Koran, etc.). And yeah, if you couldn't guess, I consider the Bible a work of fiction, too. I had to study it for a year in high school (as literature, the only way public schools can sneak Christianity in) and hope I never have to pick it up again, not just because of the religious side to it, but because it is incredibly, incredibly dull (eg, so-and-so begot so-and-so and so-and-so begot...) and long-winded (sure, Stephen King can be long-winded, too, but at least his blatherings are halfway interesting, if you like Stephen King, I suppose {I do}).

But backing up to the question "Has Reading Regularly Helped You or Improved Your Life?", I'm kind of on the fence with that one, because yes, obviously, I like reading (otherwise, why would I be on LT?), but it's also greatly hindered me from having a social life, getting things done at home, etc etc. It's a wonderful hobby (hopefully, I'll always be able to read, unless I go blind, etc.), but I just wanted to throw my measly two cents in. :)

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