Reading is fun, educational, and occasionally, cathartic. It’s the ultimate win-win activity and yet, many people neglect to dedicate time to this important practice. A 2022 Gallup survey reveals that, on average, Americans read about one book per month, representing a steep decline from average readership in the past.
We’re not here to guilt-trip you over your reading habits, but we do want to advocate for reading as a form of personal relaxation and self-improvement. Yes, college means dedicating long hours to textbooks and peer-reviewed journals, but leisure-based reading also matters.
Struggling to make time for reading books and reflecting on them? We’re here to provide a much-needed reminder that even a few minutes of reading can make a world of difference. We will also provide recommendations across several genres, so you can add today’s most entertaining and enlightening reads to your list.
Benefits of Reading
Few activities are as well-rounded and thoroughly beneficial as reading. Beyond sheer enjoyment (which, of course, is always worthwhile) the benefits of reading include:
- New perspectives and greater empathy. A good book can introduce you to a new point of view or even an entirely different world. Although other perspectives can also be gained by reading blog posts or through the power of conversation, books tend to provide a deeper dive into others’ inner lives. The result? A more nuanced understanding of what drives people and why they think or behave the way they do.
- Improved vocabulary. A strong vocabulary can boost your communication skills, which are vital to success across every sector imaginable. Why deal with flashcards and other, less-entertaining vocabulary-building solutions when you can naturally discover new terms and concepts through the power of reading?
- Greater comprehension. Reading comprehension is a common K-12 concept, but it remains important throughout your lifespan. Strong comprehension skills mean that you can retain and apply what you read. This ability can be developed through personal reading but will ultimately prove beneficial as you tackle complex textbooks and other reading materials.
- Low-cost entertainment. While many hobbies can be expensive, reading is a uniquely affordable form of entertainment. Equipped with a library card, you can enjoy a wealth of written works without paying a dime. If you want to build a book collection, you can do so affordably with help from thrift stores, garage sales, and online discounts.
- Improved sleep quality. Do you continually find yourself caught in a cycle of late-night scrolling, followed by tossing and turning at night? Try switching up your doom-scrolling with half an hour of enjoyable reading every night. Research suggests that those who regularly read before bed enjoy better sleep quality.
- Conversational opportunities. Few icebreakers are more effective than requests for book recommendations. People love to chat about their favorite books, and connections are often formed based on a shared love of reading. Book clubs take this to a new level by providing access to a similarly passionate community of bookworms.
Importance of a Reading Journal
Journaling can enhance the reading experience by encouraging you to reflect more deeply on the passages you’ve read and how they relate to your own life. This is also a great option if you like the idea of journaling but struggle to find the right prompts. You’ll have ample opportunities to expand your writing skills while you synthesize the knowledge gained through your reading adventures.
There is no “right” way to keep a reading journal. The most important step is to simply start recording your thoughts. If you require structure, however, you can invest in a pre-designed reading journal or simply use an online template. Other options for maintaining a reading journal include:
- Sketches inspired by reading experiences
- Bullet journal formatting
- Writing short book reviews
- Outlining reading goals for the future
Science Fiction and Fantasy: Neuromancer by William Gibson
As the ultimate icon of cyberpunk literature, Neuromancer was well ahead of its time, and decades after its groundbreaking publication, it remains as relevant as ever. It has won the Nebula and Hugo awards and remains highly regarded to this day.
Detailing the dystopian Chiba City in Japan, Neuromancer centers around a complicated main character: a hacker with a drug problem and a damaged nervous system. The plot can feel perplexing at times, but being disoriented is part of the experience. The goal is to place the reader within a completely different reality — a dimension of cyberspace that forces us to rethink our stance on technologies we take for granted.
This is just the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy, so you’ll have plenty of material to keep you entertained if you, like so many other science fiction fans, are captivated by this book.
Romance: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
As one of the most romantic novels of the 2010s, Me Before You details the often-difficult relationship between caretaker Louisa Clark and William Traynor, who once led an exciting life but has since struggled to find his path and his passion after suffering a horrific accident that left him mostly paralyzed.
Through their tender but often complex relationship, Louisa and William discover that, as corny as it sounds, life really is worth living. Watch out, because this is the epitome of a tearjerker and may have you reaching for your tissues by the end.
If you enjoy this book, you can continue to explore Louisa Clark’s colorful world as you dive into sequels such as After You and Still Me. When you’re ready to take a break from reading and enjoy a laid-back movie night, opt for the rom-com version of Me Before You, starring the lovely Emilia Clarke.
Historical Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
World War II forms the backdrop for many popular works of historical fiction. In All the Light We Cannot See, two stories from this era take center stage: the tale of a blind girl taking refuge in France, plus details about a remarkable German boy and his experiences in military school. A nonlinear structure builds intrigue and excitement into the reading experience, as do the frequently alternating points of view.
This work is so rich, in part, because it was thoroughly researched by the meticulous author Anthony Doerr. He dedicated nearly a decade to the research process, and it shows. The result has everything you could want in a book: deep emotions, fascinating relationships, and plenty of historical and scientific details.
Biography & Memoir: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls’ childhood was anything but typical. In her early years, she was exposed to a nomadic lifestyle, largely free of societal conventions but also stymied by the constant threats of debt and even the law. There were high points along the way, however, and in her memoir, Walls does an amazing job of capturing the nuances of her childhood and her complex relationship with her parents.
Whether you gravitate toward memoirs or typically opt for fiction, you will find something to love about this work. Because Walls’ childhood was so unconventional, The Glass Castle bears little resemblance to more ‘typical’ biographies, and with such rich and complex emotions examined, it’s easy to be drawn into this world.
Many readers will find this memoir deeply relatable, as it perfectly captures the conflicting emotions that surround modern family dynamics, plus the struggle to sort through these concerns as an adult. By no means an easy read, it’s an important one, nevertheless.
Self-Help and Personal Development: Atomic Habits by James Clear
No matter your stance on self-help books, you will find the James Clear manifesto Atomic Habits deeply compelling. As a practical guide to the art and science of breaking bad habits (and replacing them with better ones), this framework is built on the assumption that undesirable habits are not entirely the fault of the individual but, rather, the culmination of complex societal and even biological factors. Still, we don’t have to feel trapped, as this book makes abundantly clear.
If you’re eager to establish resolutions for the new year or semester, this book could be your chance to get at the root of the concerns holding you back from reaching your potential so you can take steps toward implementing lasting changes that will transform your life.
Science and Nature: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
As a compelling blend of biography, scientific guide, and ethical exploration, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks should appeal to a wide variety of readers. This fascinating tale provides much-needed insight into the wonderful woman behind the game-changing HeLa cells, which have contributed to many scientific and medical breakthroughs.
The “real live woman” who originally produced these cells often fails to receive the recognition she deserves and, unfortunately, her family has suffered greatly in the aftermath of the HeLa discovery. This emotional story provides a stark reminder that the most important scientific developments often come at a cost and that the ethical underpinnings of these issues must be carefully studied and understood.
Travel Writing: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson has long been the go-to source of humorous, yet meaningful insights into travel experiences. His famed book A Walk in the Woods is a great addition to any reading list, but In a Sunburned Country is just as entertaining. Detailing the geography and history of Australia, this hilarious, information-packed read will have you writing up your own Australia itinerary.
If you don’t have the time or budget for a trip down under, this book should satisfy your curiosity. You’ll be taken on a literary journey covering every corner of the continent that reveals just how sprawling and diverse it truly is. Humor and curiosity are two of the book’s top qualities, and with odd weather, perplexing creatures, and goofy residents at every turn, there is always a surprise waiting for both the author and the reader.
Develop Your Love of Learning With JWU
Reading is just one of many ways to build on your love of learning. The many graduate and undergraduate programs at JWU encourage you to expand your horizons.