While I’ve never needed a reason to read a book, now I have a justifiable excuse. I read for my mental health. There is even a term for it: “Biotherapy”. Books like most entertainment – movies, TV shows, and live sports – provide a break from reality. For the time that the drama has our attention, our own troubles fade into the background. The weight of our mundane lives is ever so briefly lifted.
It is more that mere distraction that makes reading so powerful. Research is showing that not only does the reader benefit by having an emotional break from ‘real-life’ – reading increases one’s compassion for another’s suffering. It is our relationship to the protagonist that influence us. In December 2013, scientists proved what many readers knew already, that the reader is ‘mentally’ in the body of the character. The hero’s victories and losses become our own. The reader is transported along with the character and both emerge changed in the end.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)