Fantasy, Science Fiction Dystopia, Adventure, Romance, Detective & Mystery, Horror, and Thriller. These are, officially, the most popular book genres, as per Amazon sales figures. One thing all these categories have in common is that they enable us to venture forth into new territories—most of which are far removed from what we have or will ever experience. The list shows us that human beings rely on books to feed their imagination, travel to fascinating worlds, and hone skills like concentration along the way.

Reading Changes The Brain

Books have a profound effect, not only on your outlook on life, but also on your brain. Research conducted by Emory University scientists have found that when you read a novel, you effect actual changes in your brain that linger for a few days after you finish it. The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, finding that reading led to heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex—an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. The participants to the study retained this connectivity even when they were no longer reading! The book chosen for this study was Pompeii—a 2003 thriller based on the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Studies On Human Nature

Fiction and non-fiction books alike inspire readers to tap into the darker and most giving aspects of humanity, educating us about what the human race is capable of. Great books also encourage us to see that characters—and life itself—are not black and white but, rather, somewhere on the spectrum of gray. If you enjoy reading early 20th century literature, then escape with Georgette Heyer’s novels. This author has penned riveting novels such as These Old Shades, about a young boy who is saved from a brutal beating and introduced into high society. There is only one problem with the change: the boy turns out to be a girl, and the person who adopted her reveals himself as a complex character who is both altruistic and self-interested. Indeed, the book is filled with mysterious characters whose motivations keep you guessing until the very last page.

Expanding Your Focus

In this high-tech age, smartphones are King and jumping from website to website, app to app, has become part and parcel of the human condition. A recent study by Microsoft shows that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds, shrinking by a quarter in just a few years. It is vital to find ways to boost our attention, since all worthwhile goals require focus and concentration. Reading is a unique way to get into “the Zone”—a mental space where time seems to spot as we become enthralled in the adventures, trials, and tribulations of the protagonists who take over our minds and hearts for a few glorious days.

Reading is one of the most direct ways to expand your horizons. Within the pages of a book, you can find new philosophies and learn more about the darkness and light of human nature. Reading expands the mind by changing the brain and enhancing focus. It is, arguably, one of the world’s most fulfilling, effective, and accessible hobbies.

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