"Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers," according to a fascinating article in The New Yorker discussing the somewhat little-known practice of bibliotherapy, or reading for therapeutic effect. "Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm."
Bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin told The New Yorker that the practice goes all the way back to the ancient Greece, where "inscribed above the entrance to a library in Thebes that this was a ‘healing place for the soul.'"
Lest you think reading is for loners, for bookworms sitting by themselves in the corner of a darkened library, think again. "We have started to show how identification with fictional characters occurs, how literary art can improve social abilities," says University of Toronto cognitive psychology professor Keith Oatley, told The New Yorker. Studies have shown that "reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, which are crucial to “theory of mind”: the ability to guess with accuracy what another human being might be thinking or feeling."
So, that settles it: Pick up a book this week! You'll feel better and you'll be nicer to your friends and family. Here's a list of 25+ best summer books to get you started.
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