We have summer in our sights, anticipating travel, adventure, rest and relaxation. Harbingers of the coming season are the summer reading lists from the traditional print book review sources, the icons of Silicon Valley and the titans of Wall Street.
The act of picking up a book, unrelated to work or school, has moved away from the center and occurs only on the periphery of our lives. We seem to have relegated reading to the category of indulgence vs. necessity. We give ourselves permission to read in summer, during an interval when we step away from work.
Writing in The Irish Times, Isabelle Cartwright considered the question of why we read.
“…the simple answer is for pleasure. But what exactly is the nature of that pleasure? Reading removes us from the structure of our lives, from the routine, the sequential habits of our day-to-day living. We enter instead another time zone. The plot, characters and setting occupy us, and while we read we inhabit the others’ reality. The pleasure therefore is derived from escaping our own small, limited and often repetitive lives and entering an exotic elsewhere.
But perhaps there is also the attraction of reserving something private for ourselves, something outside of the public world of relationship, family, work and occupation; something that is not encumbered by the stricture of time and self.”
For those of you who need a utilitarian rationale to set aside time to read, there is research to show we are morally and socially better as a result of our efforts:
“Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their “theory of mind,” or mental model of other people’s intentions.”
We become more emotionally intelligent as we read.
If that doesn’t convince you, the ‘Lifehack blog’ lists ’10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day’ (not just in summer): “Mental stimulation, stress reduction, knowledge, vocabulary expansion, memory improvement, stronger analytical skills, improved focus and concentration, better writing skills, tranquility and free entertainment.”
I think they’re on to something here, for all you skeptics. A few of these skills match exactly to what employers look for in potential candidates: communications and problem solving. Maybe reading is a necessity and not an indulgence.
Here is a menu of links to the popular reading lists this summer:
The Los Angeles Times – Summer reading guide: The 136 books you’ll want to read
USA Today – 25 Hot Books for Summer
The Washington Post – A great leadership reading list — without any business books on it
Bloomberg – Books Worth Reading This Summer
A Year of Books, Mark Zuckerberg
Beach Reading (and More), Bill Gates
Happy sand in your toes, head in the clouds, sea spray on your face reading!