ChangeMakers Loves to Read – by Angela
I love to read.
I mean, I really love to read. I learned to read when I was four years old and I’ve loved it ever since.
Many of my coworkers love to read, too. We often pass books around the office and love talking about what we’ve read. A few of us have “easy come, easy go” lending libraries on our desks. When we clear out our bookshelves at home, we bring stacks of books in to work and it doesn’t take long for them to disappear.
It’s no surprise that we really got into our reading challenge to celebrate “I Love to Read” month. Collectively, 10 participants read about 25 books (8,505 words) in February! (Click here to scroll down and check out what we read—and how we felt about our choices.)
Our “I Love to Read” challenge was a ton of fun. Beyond that, I started thinking about why we took it on with so much enthusiasm.
Reading is so much more than a hobby; it has some incredible benefits that we, as a creative group of people, thrive on.
Reading is good for your health
Research shows that reading—and reading fiction, specifically—improves our mental and physical health. When we read, we learn to empathize with others. We step outside of our own personal problems and identify with the characters we read about. In terms of physical health, reading can help to improve memory, slow brain decline and prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Reading is especially good for your mental health
You don’t need to turn to self-help books exclusively to improve your happiness and overall well-being—any literary work can help. “Bibliotherapists” have even begun to prescribe novels as “remedies for emotional disorders.”
Reading helps to improve ‘theory of mind’
“Theory of mind” is the ability to understand your own and other’s mental states. In other words, it’s the ability to empathize and “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Research suggests a link between high theory of mind and a lifelong relationship with literature, implying that avid readers tend to be able to empathize with others more easily.
Reading can reduce stress
Even six minutes of reading per day can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, research says. Research also shows that reading helps to reduce stress—slowing down your heart rate and releasing muscle tension—better and faster than other methods, including listening to music, drinking a cup of tea going for a walk or playing video games.
Reading may help you sleep better
Reading a book (not a tablet) before bed can actually help to improve your quality of sleep. Since reading helps to reduce stress levels, lower the heart rate and reduce muscle tension, it helps us to relax and wind down before bed.
Reading can boost your writing skills
It’s estimated that reading 15 minutes per day means you’ll be exposed to over 1 million words per year, which means you have more words to work with. Reading also inspires us, teaches us about writing conventions and genres, helps us to understand the world around us, provides knowledge, encourages us to use our imagination and critical thinking skills, and much more. Want to be a better writer? Read more.
Reading leads us to think more critically and opens our minds. It makes us better writers and communicators. It encourages us to use our imaginations. For many of us at ChangeMakers, reading is a source of inspiration, helps us to stay sharp and boosts our creativity.
Coworkers who read together succeed together, am I right?
The Break by Katherena Vermette
“The Break tells the stories of a number of women who experience the impact of a history of violence and racism in Winnipeg’s North End. This read was haunting and heartwrenching, yet hopeful.”
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
“When your usual story about a rampant serial killer won’t do, turn to Lauren Beukes and she’ll throw in supernatural elements or time travel. This is the second of her novels that I have read and I loved them both. Steel yourself for these novels, though; they’re pretty grisly.”
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
“For my first foray into Atwood, I chose The Handmaid’s Tale. Excellent choice (perhaps not so excellent timing; I read this one during my honeymoon). Atwood’s dystopian vision of the future is not so far-fetched and very disturbing, especially given recent world events.”
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
“I very much enjoyed this read; it was fun, magical, a little bit dangerous and quite exciting. I’d recommend this one to others, and I think it would make a great movie (though I recommend reading the book first, as the movie wouldn’t fully do it justice).”
Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell
Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell
“Both are part of his historical fiction series, The Last Kingdom (which has recently been adapted into a great BBC-Netflix series!). I’m a big fan of Cornwell’s work. He does a great job bringing to life historical settings and telling the drama of real history through the narrative of a fictional character. These books are a lot of fun and make for an enjoyable casual read.”
When the Headline is You: An Insider’s Guide to Handling the Media by Jeff Ansell
“Great refresher on media relations, and some interesting tools and templates that I’ve kept on file for future use.”
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
“Really touching coming of age story of a young lesbian in Nigeria in the 1970s, with a unique story-telling structure that skipped backward and forward in time. While reading, I Googled Biafra.”
Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
“The third in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” tetralogy; classic Adams, always fun!”
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
“Really awesome Canadian sci-fi, set in the near future on an oil rig in the North Atlantic. Great read with an awesome protagonist – a Korean-Canadian security guard who works for the United Sex Workers of Canada, kicks ass with tae kwon do and has Sturge-Weber Syndrome (which I Googled while reading).”
Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett
“About a whaling family in Australia in early 1900s. Based loosely on a real family, about the oldest daughter’s coming of age and about whaling and about the relationship of British/European Australians and Indigenous peoples—but it’s less about that than family and whaling.”
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan
“Couple buys a naughty yellow lab; lab grows enormous and does many naughty and funny things. Dog gets old; dies. Everyone is sad. They get another dog. Grogan makes money.”
The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
“About Nigerian customs, specifically of the Ibo people. Extremely patriarchal and classist world. Well written and disturbing. Takes place around the 1950s. I’m curious to know how much of the attitudes and traditions remain.”
Closing Time by Daniel Francis
“About prohibition in Canada and the US, the latter mostly as it relates to how many Canadians made fortunes making liquor for and smuggling to the US.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
“I’ve read time and time again. It takes me out of the real world and allows my mind to escape.”
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
“What stuck with me the most about this book was Amanda’s mental fortitude to endure what she did—out of body experiences and all—and still be able to write a book about it. It makes me curious to read Prince of Life by Nigel Brennan—the Australian who was kidnapped with her.”
Sean also recommends A House in the Sky: “It’s an incredible true story of a Canadian journalist who was captured and tortured in the Middle East and lived to tell her story. I highly recommend it.”
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey by Izzeldin Abuelaish
“Izzeldin Abuelaish became a Palestinian doctor against all odds. The adversity he faced even to finish high school in a refugee camp was incredible, never mind what he went through to go to medical school and intern in institutions outside of Gaza. He and his family have experienced tragedy no one should have to endure, yet he remains hopeful for peace between Palestine and Israel. He truly does not hate; an important reminder in Gaza and worldwide.”
The Girls by Emma Cline
“The Girls was incredibly overrated. I was so excited to read it because I’d heard so much buzz, but it was completely anticlimactic with horribly one-dimensional characters. What was touted as a Manson-esque coming-of-age story was really a whiney teenager’s drawn-out longing for a bad girl who ended up being an even worse girl than we thought.”
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
“This was my second attempt at reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl and, while it was not at all what I expected, it was a very compelling read. Mona Awad did a great job of drilling down to the psyche of the titular “fat girl” and through the 13 chapters that jumped time and place (the also titular “13 ways”) we got to know the main character and how her struggles with weight impacted her entire life.”
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
“All the Missing Girls was a typical “Costco bookshelf” read – some suspense, a big “Girl on the Train” twist and a predictable epilogue. I’d like to say I hated it because I’m curmudgeonly and book-snobby like that, but it was actually a quite enjoyable (if not frothy), very fast read. I wouldn’t rave about it, but give it a solid middle-of-the-road rating.”
Columbine by Dave Cullen
We Are Water by Wally Lamb
“Thoughtful family story full of heartbreaks, abuse and suspense. Both troubling and uplifting.”
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
“Well-titled – this dark, disturbing story is about a family massacre that occurred 25 years ago and the search for who really committed the grisly murders.”
Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb
“Great insight into one of the most polarizing athletes of my generation.”