5 of the best things books have taught me


1.  The world is not homogeneous

Look, we all know this, but right now I feel like we’re living in a world that is desperately trying to convince us that certain people only belong in one place, that they don’t deserve the right to empathy, compassion or refuge from war.

In a world where people like Trump want to deny refugees help, impose travel bans on Muslims and decry any news outlet that criticises him, it has become clear to me that the Trumpians of the world think that there’s only one standardised kind of worldview and experience to live by and that anyone else who doesn’t fit that racist mould should be mocked, derided and not be given access to things that amount to basic human rights.

For me, and perhaps I’m generalising a bit here, but anyone who thinks of the world as one dimensional is someone who has never read a book, or has only read the kind of book that’s reflective of their own rhetoric.

2. Reading breeds empathy

My parents have raised me to try and always be a voice for the disenfranchised and to be as compassionate as possible, and while I give full credit to them for helping to instil those values in me, I can tell you that reading has also helped to increase my understanding of other people.

Whether it’s fantasy, paranormal, romance or historical fiction, reading has taught me that the human experience is complex and relatable in so many ways, and regardless of the setting, everyone experiences heartbreak, joy, suffering, and love in ways that speak to us on so many different levels.

Science agrees with me. According to The Washington Post, Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychologist who has done research and studied the psychological effects of fiction, says that readers who immerse themselves in the stories of other people have the capacity to improve their levels of empathy.

In the post he adds that because we as readers place ourselves in the shoes of other people when we’re reading, we imagine what it’s like to go through what they’re going through, thereby helping us to understand and empathise with others better.

READ MORE: Let them read Harry Potter - in conversation with Joanne Harris

3. Books are therapy for the broken-hearted

I suffer from clinical depression and have social anxiety disorder. On days where I feel like the world is closing in on me, books have always provided me with the kind of solace that I’ve struggled to find elsewhere.

When I’m struggling to function, I either dive into the book I’m currently reading, revisit some old books (in particular some of my favourite passages) and or start a new one.

It’s not a cure for my depression, but in addition to my actual medication, it is certainly one of the best and cheapest forms of therapy I’ve ever received and helps me even on days when being a functioning human being is the hardest.

4. The e-book vs print book doesn’t matter if it means that it’s getting us to do the same thing: read

I am really tired of this debate, because at the end of the day I know of so many people who otherwise wouldn’t have picked up a book if it wasn’t for the various e-platforms we have available.

As a reader I use all reading formats – e-book, paperback and audio and they have enhanced my reading experience in so many different ways. Of course I have my favourite reading form, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shame others who prefer using a different method to read.

To quote Stephen Fry: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”

These different reading platforms simply provide alternative ways in which to consume the same product and it’s a big help to those who want to read books other people usually tend to shame them for, which is exactly what my next point is going to be about.

5. Never be ashamed of your reading choices

Read the steamy, rip-roaring bodice ripper if you want to. Love your highbrow tomes, embrace your self-help book and indulge in that Mills & Boon novel if that’s what makes you happy. My genre of choice is Young Adult fiction, but you’ll never hear me shame others for preferring non-fiction.

No one but YOU should be telling YOU what to read and unless you’re actually asking for recommendations outside your genre of choice, you should always read a novel you know you’ll enjoy, instead of one you’ll read out of obligation.

In my experience, I’ve found that people who tend to criticise readers who read what they deem to be “trashy” books actually HAVEN’T read any books from the genre themselves, are not big readers in the first place or are just awful book snobs.

Of course no one is exempting people from critiquing specific books and problem areas within books, but there’s a difference between that and trashing people for choosing to read the book in the first place.

There’s a wealth of things that books have taught me over the years and I think there are more lessons that I’m still learning and will still learn – such is the beauty of books.

I wish I could list them all, but it would be much more fun hearing from you, so please tell me:  what are some of the best life lessons you’ve learnt from reading?

WATCH: The Benefits of Reading

Here are this month’s top 10 reads:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea By Melissa Fleming
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
We Are Not Such Things by Justine van der Leun
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Want to submit a review of a book you loved? Send us an e-mail and we’ll feature in our books section.

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