The Need to Read

Reading isn’t just a fun pastime or a way for high school teachers to torture their students. According to one study, t’s a neurologically transformative experience:

They found that “readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative”. The brain weaves these situations together with experiences from its own life to create a new mental synthesis. Reading a book leaves us with new neural pathways.

When you read, your brain is creating the world and people about which you’re reading. You develop new ways of thinking about the real world. With that, we can be more empathetic and creative people. Gail Rebuck sees this as a very necessary part of our past and future as humans:

If reading were to decline significantly, it would change the very nature of our species. If we, in the future, are no longer wired for solitary reflection and creative thought, we will be diminished. But as a reader and a publisher, I am optimistic. Technology throws up as many solutions as it does challenges: for every door it closes, another opens. So the ability, offered by devices like e-readers, smartphones and tablets, to carry an entire library in your hand is an amazing opportunity.”

This is another reason I think the e-reader isn’t the destruction of books. It gives people the opportunity to have more books more readily accessible. But a paperback or library copy will expand your brain just as well, too. All you have to do is pick up a novel or autobiography or travel book and get your brain working. It’s all part of our evolution.

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