Reading may have traditionally been seen as one of life’s great pleasures, but in the age of smartphones, game consoles and Netflix, amusing oneself with blocks of unmoving text has become increasingly unappealing. Amongst American adults, 1 in 4 read no books at all.
But books are important. They fire our imagination and immerse us in new worlds. They make us happier, they make us healthier and they can even be the key to career success.
1. Reading improves your communication skills
Being able to express yourself clearly, correctly and coherently are crucial business skills. Whether you’re presenting an idea to your team, pitching the company to a client or pushing your boss for a promotion, what you say is only half the battle: how you say it matters too. The more articulate you are, the more convincing listeners will find you. Similarly, poorly written emails, reports and resumes will make you appear incompetent.
Reading makes us more articulate by increasing our vocabulary: books contain 50 percent more rare words than either television or conversation. When we are exposed to new words and sentence structures in books, we learn how to use them in real life. Indeed, an estimated 5 to 15 percent of all the words we know we learned from books.
Just as reading books can help us express ourselves better in our native tongue, reading foreign-language books can help us learn a new one. Being bilingual boosts your salary by an average of 2 percent, translating into an extra $67,000 over your working lifetime.
Related: How to Act Self-Confident
2. Reading boosts your brain power
The better our brain is operating, the better we work. But our brain, like our muscles, is easily tired out. Everything from age to a bad night’s sleep can slow it down considerably. Reading books, however, is like adding oil to a rusty machine; it confers a number of mental benefits that has the effect of getting our cogitative processes up and running again.
Every sentence we read contains a lot of information, which means that reading requires the use of multiple parts of our brain. The more our brain is used, the stronger it gets. That’s why frequent readers have a better memory and are better analytical thinkers. Moreover, just as heavier weights build bigger muscles, more complicated texts have bigger brain-boosting effects than simpler stories. Time to dig out your Shakespeare!
Moreover, these neurological benefits of reading last long after the book is closed. People who read throughout their life are rewarded with healthy brains in old age. Without books, your cognitive decline is likely to be 48 percent faster than average.
3. Reading improves your working relationships
Whether you’re a lowly intern or the CEO, being able to work well with colleagues is a crucial component of professional success. High levels of emotional intelligence and empathy are two traits that allow you to relate to other people in a way that is highly conducive to good management or teamwork. Both traits are developed by reading books.
Fictional novels transport us into the minds and situations of characters who are completely different from ourselves, and makes us empathize with them. In doing so, books teach us to tolerate, accept and understand difference in the real world. In the workplace, this helps diverse teams work well together, and dampens the potential for personality clashes between colleagues.
A good book makes us feel every emotion under the sun. A side effect of this is that we become more astute at discerning the emotions of others. In short, reading books makes us better at reading people. That has numerous beneficial applications in the world, from clinching deals with clients to providing the managerial support that will turn a mediocre employee into an outstanding one.
A good workplace is one in which supervisors motivate and encourage employees, and colleagues create a supportive and collaborative atmosphere. Bosses who wish to foster this sort of culture could do a lot worse than installing an on-site library.