Summer is almost here. Many of you might be thinking about hanging out at the pool, going to the lake with friends, watching baseball, relaxing, and enjoying a little time off. I’d suggest you add reading to your list of summer activities. Especially reading books you might not have a chance to read during the semester: novels, poetry, plays. These are just a few of the reasons to get lost in a good book.

Reading develops empathy.

Reading a novel lets you experience life through the eyes of someone else. Fiction helps you experience situations you might not have encountered in your own life and better understand what someone who has lived through them is feeling. In fact, fMRI studies have shown that the brain makes little distinction between an experience you’ve read about and one you’ve experienced in real life.

Reading more makes you a better writer.

Don’t ask me, just look at this quote from Stephen King, a guy who knows a little about writing:

You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

Stephen King

It’s cheap.

Going to a movie will set you back $10 even before you get popcorn and a drink, and it’s over in two hours. You can borrow as many books as you like from your local library for FREE, and each one will provide at least a couple hours’ entertainment if not more. And librarians are wonderful people who live for recommending books.

Reading at Belton Lake

It’s portable.

You can take a paperback with you anywhere: the pool, the beach, a picnic, a hammock under the shade tree in your back yard… and you don’t need WiFi or unlimited data either.

Reading does other fascinating stuff to your brain.

Just check this out.

In fact, our brains seem to be hardwired to recognize poetry, so much so that it can literally make us feel chills or send shivers down our spines. Emily Dickinson described it poetically, of course:

Part One: Life

The BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound by pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

So, pick up a good book this summer. If you don’t know what you should read, ask a librarian or a bookseller for suggestions. They’d love to recommend something. These are a few of the books on my summer list:

  • Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • And poetry by Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Billy Collins

What are you reading? I’m always looking for suggestions! Leave your recommendations in the comments.

At UMHB, we want you to receive an education for life, but also have the experience of a lifetime! For more information, we invite you to visit our website, or stop by for a visit!