The benefits of reading fiction are so vast it will be difficult to cover them all in one blog post. But that won’t stop me from trying. 🙂 There are many advantages of reading fiction books and I think some of them will surprise you.
Does Reading Fiction Make You Smarter?
There are many benefits of reading fiction. These benefits include improved neural connectivity in the brain, improved analytical skills, memory, and vocabulary. Many factors are involved to put these benefits into practice, but in a short answer, yes, reading fiction can make you smarter. Whether you read on a kindle or from a paperback, the benefits are endless.
In one study, researchers tested neural connectivity in the brain before, during, and after participants read a novel. Fiction reading caused significant increases in brain connectivity! Some of the connectivity only lasted during and immediately after reading, but some of it persisted for several days after reading. (Short and Long Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain, Brain Connectivity, Vol. 3, No. 6)
What does that mean? It means your brain can find connections between related events, thoughts, and details much better when you read fiction regularly. When reading a good book, you’re constantly trying to figure out the ending and what’s going to happen next. You recall past events and details and consider how they might relate to the overall story. This happens automatically while you read. Making these connections while reading teaches your brain to look for connections in real life. You might find yourself noticing details you once overlooked. You might start creating analogies to help you understand new concepts!Trying to guess the ending to a book might be making you smarter!Click To Tweet
Does Reading Improve Vocabulary?
People who read a lot, specifically fiction, have more words in their vocabulary than those who don’t. Frequent fiction readers have, on average, 2,000 more words in their vocabulary. The chart with these results is much cleaner than you would expect. It clearly demonstrates that increased vocabulary is one of the benefits of reading fiction.
Back when I was in college, I remember learning the vocabulary density of fiction novels is much higher than the vocabulary density in TV shows. I scoured the internet for the study, but I came up short. 🙁 Without the actual stats, this point is not nearly as exciting. But assuming what I remember is true, you are exposed to way more words when reading fiction than watching television. That’s why it’s so easy to build a bigger vocabulary.
Why is a rich vocabulary important?
Vocabulary makes it easier to explain your thoughts and ideas. You can also express emotions and communicate clearly. With a rich vocabulary, it’s easier to understand what others are saying. Vocabulary is also an important part of many IQ tests such as the WAIS and Standford-Binet.
And, because I’m a Disney nerd:
“Isn’t it rather dangerous to use one’s entire vocabulary in a single sentence?” Oliver & Company (1988)
Does reading increase intelligence? The answer is a resounding yes. Reading increases vocabulary, improves memory and analytical thinking skills. Reading also increases neural connectivity in the brain. And these are only a few of the benefits of reading fiction.
Does Reading Improve Memory?
Reading fiction can improve memory. Stories are one of the best ways to convert information into long term memory. When reading, you have to remember scores of details like characters, plot, settings, back story, conversations, ambitions, and more. When you train your brain to convert information to long term memory, it improves your overall memory. Studies have also suggested that reading can slow mental decline in your later years.
“Frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late life cognitive decline… (Neurology.org)
This means that reading can improve your memory in general, but it might also lessen the effects of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in your later life! If that’s not a benefit of reading fiction, I don’t know what is. Your brain is just like any muscle and the more you exercise it, the better it will work. That’s why reading is so effective at improving your memory. It stimulates many areas of the brain and gives your brain the chance to create new connections.
Visualizing information is another effective technique to improve memory. Visualization happens almost automatically while reading. Elaboration and rehearsal also make it easier to encode information into long term memory. While this isn’t directly related to reading, most readers love to talk about the things they read. When you discuss the plot and characters of your favorite novel, you’re actually improving your memory!
'Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.' -Joseph AddisonClick To Tweet
Scientific Benefits of Reading Fiction
Reading fiction provides mental stimulation which helps with memory, vocabulary, and focus. When reading, we put ourselves into the mind of the characters. This can help develop empathy and emotional intelligence. There are so many benefits of reading books they are almost too great to count.
What Reading Improves:
- Brain Connectivity (Psychology Today)
- Vocabulary (GLD Communications)
- Memory and Mental Stimulation (Bustle)
- Focus and Concentration (Self Development Secrets)
- Analytical Skills (Life Hack)
- Empathy and Emotional Intelligence (Scientific American)
- Tolerance (Journal of Applied Psychology)
- Stress Reduction (Telegraph)
Reading can improve your life in many ways. The best part is, reading is fun! Yes, you will stimulate your mind and increase your emotional intelligence. But you can also go on thrilling adventures and experience life changing paradigm shifts. Read on to learn more about analytical skills, empathy, tolerance, and stress reduction.
How Reading Improves Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
When books are focused on the psychology of characters and their relationships, readers can learn from those interactions. Character’s minds are depicted vaguely in novels. This forces the reader to “fill in the gaps” to understand intentions and motivations. Regular readers get used to this when reading and the psychological awareness transfers with them to the real world (Fiction Improves Empathy).
This means, the more you read, the better you will understand the people around you. Getting into the head of a character gets you used to understanding someone that isn’t you.
Here’s another article that discusses the study in more detail. And now to even more benefits of reading fiction.
How Reading Improves Tolerance
Fiction often deals with topics like prejudice. When reading books where “out groups” are treated with respect, participants in a study were shown to have more tolerance for stigmatized groups. This study cited Harry Potter specifically, which makes it that much cooler.'Do your bit to save humanity from lapsing back into barbarity by reading all the novels you can.' -Richard HughesClick To Tweet
How Reading Helps to Reduce Stress
Reading is a great way to relax and unwind at the end of the day. When reading, you become so engrossed in the story that you are able to momentarily forget the pressures of your life. Reading for even just six minutes can lower heart rate and ease the tension in muscles. (Reading Can Reduce Stress)
Talking About Books Improves Analytical Skills
I have an entire post all about how to improve analytical skills by reading fiction. Here’s a very quick recap of that info.
The brain is always trying to organize and sort information. When you talk about a book with someone, it helps solidify that process even more! Yes, talking about books can improve your analytical skills. When you search for plot holes or consider alternate endings, you are teaching your brain to sort and organize. Analyzing a book with another person can also improve your communication skills.With so many benefits, you can't afford NOT to read fiction.Click To Tweet
Not only is analyzing a book good for your brain, it’s also fun! Who else loves to dissect characters and a plot with anyone who will listen? I have my hand raised way, way up.
Even if you read from a kindle instead of a print book, the benefits are still there.
Science Fiction Benefits
Reading science fiction has many benefits beyond pure entertainment. It examines the impact of new technologies, promotes interest in science in a world that is increasingly science and technology oriented, and explores culture and society. Sci Fi books cover topics like inequality, surveillance, selective breeding, and artificial intelligence. It takes the topics we are afraid of in reality and imagines if they were better… or worse. There are great benefits of reading fiction in general, but science fiction has the most of all.
Science fiction encourages imagination and curiosity. This genre makes readers more interested in the world around them. It scrutinizes both the benefits and risks of new technology. Sci Fi also goes miles beyond other genres at giving readers an open mind. The representation in science fiction is phenomenal compared to other genres. Science fiction had women scientists long before mainstream novels. Science fiction forces us to think about the future and consider all the possibilities: technology, society, gender roles, etc. Best of all, sci fi books are cool!
Need a new book to read? Check out my list of 6 Sci Fi Books with Strong Female Leads.
Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinded critics and philosphers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all. (Isaac Asimov)