“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” said The New York Times best-selling author Stephen King. And if there’s a time to get lost, it’s on National Book Lovers Day.
Today, bookworms are invited to read away as much of the day as they possibly can. The New York Public Library even has a cool campaign, from now until August 15, that exposes some of the best-kept places to read by using their hashtag #ireadeverywhere.
But books aren’t just exciting to get into. They boast some health benefits, too.
Literary Fiction Improves Theory Of Mind
A study published in the journal Science recruited 800 people to read excerpts from either literary fiction (The Roundhouse by Louise Eldrich) or popular fiction (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). It didn’t matter how little or how often each person read: Researchers found reading literary fiction essentially made it easier for a person to empathize.
Scientifically, this is known as theory of mind, in which a person has a strong ability to infer someone else’s thoughts and feelings. The more a person reads (authors argue that it doesn’t necessarily have to be literary fiction), the stronger their theory of mind.
Readers Are More Intelligent
According to research from the University of California, Berkeley, published in the Journal of Direct Instruction, reading promotes literacy. The increased exposure to a variety of vocabulary helps to boost both memory and cognitive skills. And in a separate study published in the journal Child Development, researchers found not developing reading skills early-one negatively affected identical twins.
"Children who don't receive enough assistance in learning to read may also be missing out on the important, intelligence-boosting properties of literacy,” Stuart J. Richie, lead study author, said in a press release.
Book Interventions Benefit Depression, Disabled Children
Self-help books are recommended as an intervention for severely depressed patients, found a BMJ study. Similarly, a small study from the University of Cincinatti found bibliotherapy, or the idea of using books as an intervention, benefitted children who struggled socially as a result of a disability, including autism and Downs Syndrome.
Books Are Means Of Transportation
King wasn’t kidding. Research from Emory University in Atlanta found a person sustains measurable changes in their brain up to five days after reading.
"The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," Gregory Berns, lead study author, told The Independent. says. "We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."
Reading Can Change Your Life
In her 2013 TED Talk, Lisa Bu told the audience she wanted to be a Chinese opera singer growing up. No one, not even her parents, supported this idea — so Bu turned to books to find a new calling.
"Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present," she said during her talk. "I know I shall never feel lonely or powerless again. Having a dream shattered really is nothing compared to what many others have suffered. I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you."