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The Value of Reading + My Recommended Reads

I have always been a bookworm and swear to always be one for as long as I have breath in my lungs. I’ve found, however, that most people do not share this sentiment. I simply cannot imagine a life without books, and I truly believe that Ernest Hemingway was right in saying that “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” I hope that this list of ways in which reading benefits you informs you, opens your eyes, and makes you join the likes of myself, Rory Gilmore, and many others in loving books as tenderly as the physical people in our lives.


You become a better writer

As you read varying types of sentence structures that are used by different authors to form their style, your brain begins to pick up on them. The more you read the same types of structures, the more your brain recognizes and internalizes them. They then translate themselves into your own writing without you even realizing it. If you’re like me and usually know where to put a comma without being able to tell someone the grammatical rule that makes it so, it’s more than likely you just picked up the skill from someone else’s use of it in a book.

Your vocabulary increases

Similar to picking up writing skills, your brain also begins to pick up words as it sees them in different contexts. Many of the words we know and use on a regular basis were picked up along the way from an outside source. We figure out how to properly use them based on the context we’ve seen them in. Reading just twenty minutes a day can increase your vocabulary.

Improved focus

In the age of technology, ability to focus, specifically in teens and children, has significantly decreased.  Sitting down with a book and making it through several hundred pages increases your minds ability to stay focused. It’s worth considering that the generation with the most cases of ADD also reads the least…

Improved memory

As you read, you are subconsciously storing facts, characters, plot lines, and details as you read. Keeping track of all of these things at once improves your memory. Reading has not only been linked to decreasing mental deterioration later in life, but also in helping with Alzheimer’s disease.

Increase in empathy

Especially for young children that are very impressionable, this is important. When you read different stories about different characters in different places in the world, and different time periods that are experiencing different things, you learn to put yourself in their shoes. When you cry at the heart-wrenching pain that your character is feeling, you are experiencing empathy for someone that does not even exist. If you can feel empathy for fictional characters, it makes it that much easier to feel empathy for the people in your life.

Better sleep

Reading before bed is not only a great way to schedule reading into your day, it also helps you sleep better. We’ve all heard about getting off of our phones an hour before bed to sleep better, and even though we don’t ever do it, there’s logic behind the suggestion. Doing an activity that disengages you from the events of your day (such as reading about someone else’s world) helps you sleep better. Instead of being up all night because your head is crowded with anxious thoughts about everything that went wrong, all the things you need to do, and all the things that could continue to go wrong in the future, you are completely distracted by something entirely separate from yourself. So grab a book and get to snoozing!

Have I convinced you yet?

If I’ve done my job and you’re now ready to start picking a new book, check out some of my personal favorites below – I’ve included various types fiction and non-fiction that will satisfy all different tastes in books!

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages Great if you want an easier read, a touching story about friendship, or love a good underdog story. 

This is not a particularly difficult or advanced book (I read it for the first time in the 5th or 6th grade), but the story still relates even to an older audience. It’s set during the time of World War II, at “The Hill”, where scientists are secretly working on the atomic bomb. The main character Dewey is your typical underdog, and is a very lovable character. She has one leg shorter than the other and is a total whiz. The story follows Dewey’s move to The Hill, her relationship with her father, and her unlikely friendship with a girl named Suze. This is still one of my favorite books, and I have gone back and read it years after the very first time. (P.S. If you read this and love it, there is a sequel! Check out White Sands, Red Menace.)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – Great if you enjoy poetic love stories, or misfits finding love.

Usually, I’m not that into love stories. At least not as the main focus of a story, a little side loving is all right with me. This is an exception for me. Rowell writes a story about a “weird” girl from a messed up family (another underdog, can you tell I like that type?) and a half-Asian boy who’s just as different as her, just not on the outside. If you’ve seen the quote “She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” floating around tumblr, this is what it’s from. It’s written beautifully and even for people that don’t gravitate towards love stories, you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for everything to fall into place. This book will make you cry. Guaranteed.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – Great if you enjoy memoirs, or want exciting non-fiction.

In her memoir, Walls recounts her outstandingly unique childhood. Some scenes will make you yearn for that sort of free, adventurous environment, while some will leave you disgusted with the way her parents raise children. I could not put this book down and regularly forgot that what I was reading was a true story. I had to remind myself constantly that this was not a story, this was a real person’s life. This is hands down the most interesting memoir I have ever read and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to get out of their fiction rut, but is not crazy about non-fiction.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Great if you want to start reading more classics, if you love the glamour of the 1920’s, or if you love tragic romances.

If you want to get start reading more classics, this is a great place to start. The Great Gatsby is pretty much a universally loved classic. The language is modern enough that it’s not hard to understand, and it’s not to difficult for most people to understand at least some of the symbolism that goes along with the story. The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, who becomes Gatsby’s neighbor. The two form a relationship in which he discovers that Gatsby has been in love with his cousin Daisy, now married to Tom Buchanan, since he first met her years ago. He helps along their relationship, which ends up creating a great deal of disturbance and trouble in everyone’s lives, hence the “tragic romance.” Beautifully written and always an interesting story.

How to Read Literature like a Professor: A lively and entreating guide to reading between the lines by Thomas C. Foster- Great if you’re looking to read more deeply, if you have a big love for reading and literature already, or if you want to learn new things.

This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is personally one of my favorites. It is one thing to read a story, and it is a whole other thing to understand all of the hidden meaning, allusions, and symbolism behind every story. If you do not care at all for literary analysis and just want to read a story, this book probably isn’t for you. For those of us that love literature and want to understand it better, this is a very engaging, conversational book that guides you through starting to see more in literature. Foster is pretty much pure genius. He finds the most interesting things in stories that you would have never seen on your own, but make perfect sense once he shows them to you. If you are a high school or college student, this book is especially good for you, as it will help you in analyzing books you read for school and are assessed on.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume- Great if you love coming of age stories, or following the trials of a long friendship amid parting paths in life.

This is one of my favorite books. The front cover of my copy has entirely fallen off. I can’t exactly explain why I love this book so much. There are definitely more beautifully written stories out there, more fascinating plots, but something about this story has me returning to this book at least once a year. Caitlin Somers, who seems perfect and has everyone in awe of her, picks quiet Victoria (Vix) Leonard to be her summer friend at Martha’s Vineyard. The relationship they form changes Vix’s life forever. The story follows them from the early stages of pubescence (Caitlin complains of her lack of breasts,) into their adult lives, their relationships gets more complicated and difficult with every year, but they always come back together. Caitlin’s eccentric and fearless character allows for many wild adventures as they grow up, and the separation of their world’s is relatable for just about anyone who’s done any amount of growing up. (P.S. not a PG rated book, sex scenes included!)

Divergent by Veronica Roth- Great if you love dystopian fiction about the future, love rebellious characters that start revolutions, or forbidden love. 

Most of you have probably at least heard of this, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie. The movies are not even comparable to the books and were changed in many ways. The best way to go with this series of three books, is to actually read them. This story is reminiscent of The Hunger Games with it’s corrupted society that attempts to control everyone. However, I think this is even better than The Hunger Games. At a certain age, everyone attends a ceremony where they choose what faction they will be in.  The factions are Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). Each faction has their own living space and does something different for the community. There is the option to stay with your current faction and be with your family, but if you leave your faction, you can no longer see your family. Beatrice (later Tris) chooses Dauntless, and through initiation discovers that she is what they call Divergent. Divergent are different, special, and most importantly they are hunted because they are feared by the leaders. This is a very thrilling, fast-paced book that includes a little romance. I have read all three books and could not put them down!

If you have any amazing books that you’d like to share, feel free to comment and let me know! I’d love to check out your suggestions.

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    1. Me too! You should try Tender Is The Night also by Fitzgerald, he’s really got a beautiful way with words.

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