Reaping the Rewards of Reading

Reading on the Beach


In an effort to slow down my life so I can pause more and rush less, I read an article today about the ten essential rules to slow down. The author mentions the importance of:  1) Doing Less, 2) Being Present, 3) Disconnecting, 4) Focusing on People, 5) Appreciating Nature, 6) Eating Slower, 7) Driving Slower, 8) Single-Tasking, 9) Finding Pleasure in Anything, and taking time to simply 10) Breathe. All practical ideas and conscious choices to appreciate life and live happier. I’ve written on several of these subjects in this newsletter.

I would like to add one more to the list: Read. For me, reading is a gift. 

How does reading help us slow down and enjoy life more? Here are five ways:

1)    Reading can help reduce stress. There are any number of books that can bring encouragement and reduce stress, from the Bible to self-help books. Even fiction can reduce stress levels by transferring you from the challenges of your non-fiction world—to the fictional world of the novel you’re reading. 

Most of my life, I’ve read non-fiction because I’m bent toward learning versus entertainment. One day I picked up a novel after twenty years of reading non-fiction. The author immediately transported me into his “fictional dream.” I was no longer in the doldrums of winter here, but on the beach in his balmy summer setting. My life circumstances faded in the background as I rooted for the main character to rise to his challenges. I could safely observe him just outside the margins of the page.

The stress of my life is always temporarily suspended when I’m lost in a novel. And there’s no better way to get lost in a novel than to read it in the great outdoors. (See photo above.)

2)    Reading fuels reflection. My college roommate, Dan, (a physician) recently challenged me to read a non-fiction book he loved—and thought I would, too. He went a step further; he bought it for me. It was titled, When Breath Becomes Air. It’s a powerful and poignant story of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a thirty-seven year old neurosurgeon diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. His life was fading away just as he and his wife were bringing their first child, a daughter, into the world. 

How did I benefit from reading this book? It was so much more than a “physician becomes patient” story. While sad, this book is not about sadness; it’s about courage. The author was not only a gifted surgeon, he was a brilliant author. This book allowed me to “see” what courage “sounds” like.

It caused me to ask penetrating questions as I stood alongside a man facing—and reconciling—his own mortality with a blend of faith, logic, and brutal honesty. I’ve been a professional writer for over 40 years now, and seldom has a book inspired more reflection. 

3)    Reading entertains us. It goes without saying that reading, particularly fiction, is entertainment. It’s also a diversion, a respite, a pause, a time-out. How many times have you seen a film adaptation of a book? What’s your usual response? “It wasn’t as good as the book.” I love the entertainment value of a good book—and how that entertainment is administered at my pace—one bite at a time—over the course of a week or so.

4)    Reading educates us. I used to think I could only be educated by a non-fiction book. I’ve learned as much from fiction as non-fiction when it comes to relationships, hardship, and suffering. I suppose it’s because reading fiction can be so engaging. As we cheer for the main characters, we ask ourselves what would we do in similar circumstances. This encourages reflection which, in turn, has the potential to educate us on the theme of the novel. 

The novel I’m currently writing, To Love Again, addresses “love after loss.” Can we ever truly love again if we lose our soulmate? To the same depth? Or will we always hold something in reserve for the one lost? My goal is not only to entertain, but to help educate readers on overcoming grief.

5)    Reading introduces us to ourselves. Fiction more than non-fiction has the potential to introduce us to ourselves. Perhaps Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box and over 30 other novels, said it best:

“For every now and then, we find that ONE book that reaches us deep inside and introduces us to ourselves. And, in someone else’s story, we come to understand our own.”

Reading. It’s a practical way to slow down, rest, reflect, refresh—and simply enjoy life more.


Photo by dan-dumitriu on Unsplash.


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