Why a Daily Habit of Reading Books Should be Your Priority, According to Science

Christina DesMarais

Consuming the written word is exceptionally good for people.

Twenty six percent of adults in the United States have not read even a portion of a book within the last year. It's an unfortunate reality considering that researchers have found that consuming the written word is exceptionally good for people. Here's what studies have found.

Reading fiction helps you be more open-minded.

It's because the same brain regions are activated when you experience something in real life as when you get into the heads of characters and imagine walking in their shoes. Researchers have actually found that this practice of seeing the world from the perspectives of others helps people be more empathetic and better understand different ways of thinking.

Reading protects against cognitive decline.

Like most things in life, the adage "use it or lose it" applies to your thinking ability, at least if you believe data sifted from the Victoria Longitudinal Study, a long-term investigation of human aging. When analyzing a sample of 250 middle-aged and older adults who were tested three times over six years researchers found that intellectually engaging activities act as a buffer against cognitive decline. It's because reading is exercise for your brain.

Reading a paper book is good for your memory, compared with e-books.

Heath writer Maia Szalavitz pulls together input from several reputable sources who believe that it may be harder to remember things presented electronically, compared with on paper. When you hold a book in your hands, you make unconscious associations with where words are on the paper--top or bottom, left or right on the page--as well as how far into the book you are according to how many pages are in your right versus left hand. These landmarks help people remember.

Reading is a habit held by successful people.

Dozens of high-achieving individuals have shared with me their daily habits for success and reading is undeniably a common theme. Want a few recommendations to help you in business? A few titles which repeatedly make executive book lists: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni, The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.