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Want to Live Longer? Be Wealthier? And Happier? Here is the One PROVEN Secret: Reading!

Many people seek refuge from a hard day by curling up with a good book. Others use reading as a way to pass the time while traveling or waiting for an appointment, while still others read for the pure enjoyment of it.

No matter what your reason is for reading, research has shown that it's good for more than just your imagination.

Teaching kids the joys of reading early on can help them be more successful later in life.

Stress Relief

Reading fiction, spiritual, self-help and other literary genres is an excellent way to calm your mind. Says Jill Brennan, owner of the literary Web site Espresso Fiction:

"Taking your mind off your own problems, even for a few minutes, can have a therapeutic effect and be a timely circuit breaker. This is so effective that the National Health System in the United Kingdom has introduced a "Reading and You Scheme." [See below] The scheme encourages mental health patients to read more as part of their therapy for reducing stress and overcoming anxiety, depression and social isolation."

Finding effective ways to relieve stress in your life is key to keeping healthy and living a long, disease-free life. Maybe reading is one of yours?

Be More Successful (and Wealthier)

According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), frequent reading is a huge factor in a student's future success.

The 25 Greatest Novels of All Time

The Observer compiled a list of the 100 greatest
novels of all time
. Inevitably it caused a fair amount
of controversy. Here are the first 25:

1.   Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
9. Emma Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
12. The Black Sheep Honore De Balzac
13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
17. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott

Researchers said, "Being more enthusiastic about reading and a frequent reader, was more of an advantage on its own than having well educated parents in good jobs."

OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted the study to determine how well young adults in 31 countries were prepared to enter society at the end of compulsory schooling. Among 15 year olds, it was found that "children from the most deprived backgrounds performed better in tests than those from more affluent homes if they enjoyed reading books, newspapers and comics in their spare time."

And according to an OECD report, "Finding ways to engage students in reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change."

Indeed, being better prepared for society's challenges gives a person an advantage that could lead to a better education, a better career and even a better income later in life.

Support Your Own Mental Health

The National Health System (NHS) in the United Kingdom had so much faith in the power of reading that in 2000 it implemented a program called the Reading and You Scheme (RAYS).

In partnership with the Kirklees and Calderdale libraries, the program objectives included:

  • To promote the idea of reading (particularly fiction) as an alternative to drugs, in the achievement of mental and physical well-being.

  • To encourage greater use and awareness of the library services by all, but especially those suffering from social isolation.

  • To support and empower the individual to improve confidence and self-esteem and to improve learning and inter-personal skills by reading, discussing and debating in small informal groups.

  • To raise awareness amongst library staff and health professionals of the benefits of reading.

  • To continue to collect hard evidence and examples of the benefits of reading for general mental and physical well-being.

So far, the program has been a success. Here's how it works: 'Bibliotherapists' work with health professionals, who 'prescribe' books and meetings with the bibliotherapists to patients in lieu of (or in combination with) other treatments. Together they promote the benefits of reading for:

  • Relaxation

  • Reducing stress, anxiety and depression

  • Social isolation

A similar program was also started in Wales by Professor Neil Frude, a consultant psychologist at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust. He said:

"We launched the scheme in March 2003 in Cardiff, now it's been copied in 45 areas across the UK. Ninety percent of mild to moderate psychological problems are treated in primary care. And the benefit of the scheme is that patients can be given similar treatments in a book that they would receive in counseling."

Medical experts have compiled a list of 33 books that belong to the program and are available in libraries across Wales.

Looking for a Really Good Read? Try One of These Four

The editorial team recommends these four releases. We can't stop raving about them!

  1. The Diezmo, by Rick Bass

    An epic tale of suffering and justice, this captivating story was inspired by the Mier Expedition of the Republic of Texas. It combines beautiful prose with a compelling blend of history and fiction.

  2. A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby

    This is a brilliant story of four desperate people who come together in an unlikely circumstance: to the top of a building to commit suicide. It addresses mortality in a grim but very funny way, and begs the question, "Why are we here?"

  3. The Niagara River, by Kay Ryan

    This is an intensely creative book of poems that are unapologetically rueful yet optimistic at the same time. Ryan's poems have appeared "everywhere from the Sunday funnies to New York subways to the pages of The New Yorker to plaques at the zoo."

  4. The Last Voyage of Christopher Columbus, by Martin Dugard

    This is a Christopher Columbus you never learned about in school. This narrative is pure history--much of it surprising and unknown--that reads like a captivating novel.

Recommended Reading

An Absolute Must-Read Dietary Health Book

The Major Health Benefits of Going Barefoot (Really!)


National Literacy Trust

RAYS Scheme

BBC News July 28, 2005

Seven Benefits for Adults Reading Fiction

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