Thank you, 2020, for an amazing reading year. In the beginning of this year I signed up to read 52 books, which was crazy to begin with but, as we all experienced it, this year planned something else for us – exactly the almighty quarantine. Having plenty of time, I am so glad I picked up this hobby and I can say that this was one of the best achievements of this year.
Reading has a significant number of benefits and I would like to share with you how I see this hobby and all the good sides of it in my opinion. I started reading regularly, even if it was only one chapter or even one page (to be honest that was rarely the case as the books are very addictive) I committed myself to read every day. So, let’s see why reading is good!
Reading the World
Reading books brings you outside of your apartment, city, country and even continent. It allows you to travel everywhere and that was so needed in times of lock downs and quarantine. If a year before (2019) I could pack my things and spend 3 weeks in Nepal just like that, in 2020 I could afford this only by reading. I still discovered new places and cultures. Some of you may say that this is not the same, but I truly believe that books have the power of bringing you to places you have only seen on Internet. Just to mention some examples, in “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee I immersed myself in stories from Korea to Japan from early 1900s until after the second World War and since this is both a fictional and a true story, it made me sad what those people had to endure. After reading “Pachinko” in my mind a trip to South Korea and Japan started to take place and it was beautiful. Another good example is the book “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang where the author tells the story of her grandmother, mother and herself, of three generations in the twentieth century China. It relates in form of a memoir as well as an eyewitness, the engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China and the Cultural Revolution. It is an inspiring story about courage and love, and the unbelievable experience of women in the modern world. It was a good education on Chinese culture and history, and I found myself looking up the map of China with the provinces, and marking on it the traditions and the traditional food and mentally preparing myself to visit. The books “A River in Darkness” by Masaji Ishikawa and “Daughters of the Dragon” by William Andrews opened a fictional window to the North Korea history and culture.
Improving and enriching your vocabulary
I noticed this more with the German language when reading. The thing is that I reached the level when I can understand in general what is written in a paragraph but there are times that a word can be used in several contexts. Kindle is one of the greatest technology for readers, and one of the functions it offers is the dictionary. I also observed that the words I am looking up, I am memorizing faster. From the books I read in English I still remember one word that I was not sure what it meant so I looked it up and it will be stuck with me forever. It is “flabbergasted” which means greatly surprised or astonished.
Knowledge I think is the most important benefit of reading. In every book I discovered so many things I didn’t know, which helps to have good conversations on different topics and prepares you with a solid base of information. From my list of books of 2020 I would like to mention some that were loaded with knowledge and related facts about history and cultures of which I unfortunately never heard of: “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah about Apartheid, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee about the Pachinko business and imperial Japan, “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou about Theranos fraud in the United States, “A River in Darkness” by Masaji Ishikawa about North Korea, “Educated” by Tara Westover about the isolated communities of Mormons in the United States and their lifestyle, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah about the second World War and struggles of Jewish people, “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel about PayPal mafia, “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang is a memoir with a lot of information about China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, facts and stories that are really hard to believe nevertheless true, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson – yeah this book is one of my favorite’s read for the year, for example did you know for how much Jobs sold Pixar? and more aspects of this genius’s life that shaped our lives forever. I believe that the knowledge and information you accumulate while reading is easy to process and therefore easy to recall, because you are reading a story and some stories stay with us forever.
Relaxation, stress reduction and good mood
I can relate with this so well. Stress is so present in our life, so escaping it, can be achieved through reading. It helps you to forget the problems and the bothers. Did you notice when you are reading and somebody is trying to distract you by asking or showing you something on the phone, you become all of a sudden so annoyed (yeah it happens to me all the time)??? This shows that books have a huge power over us, and we can easily block the mundane troubles and stress and let us be taken to a place of peace, harmony and quietness. Books like “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah – the famous comedian can make you laugh like crazy, be careful not to read it in public! I warned you! But seriously books have this power too, they can make you laugh and boost your mood, which as a result leads to less stress.
Improving your analytical and critical thinking
Reading improves the analytical and critical thinking. There are some scientific articles that prove that readers improve their general knowledge, and they recognize patterns easier. Also when you find yourself in a difficult situation you can recall moments or facts from books and solve the problem easier and faster. The mind is more active and analyzes the surrounding better. One example from my list is the book “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling – a must read, so good written and very informative. Living in a world of constant news and as you know not always the kind ones, good ones or true ones, this book makes us look at the world as it is, and according to it “things are better than you think”. Reading helps you gather information on different topics, so that when you are confronted with a new situation, you can analyze it, critically examine and decide based on your information the most suitable solution.
Increases your ability to empathize
Let’s just say that you cannot be indifferent and unemotional to the happenings of your characters, you live with them, relate to them, suffer with them and empathize with them. This was so true for me along many books of 2020, but some of them stand out: the first novel by Delia Owens “Where the Crawdads Sing”, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate, “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, “Educated” by Tara Westover, “The Pearl that Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. I am so glad I could be part of these characters’ journeys. It was not always fun and joy, rather sadness, physical and emotional abuse, manipulation, betrayal, suffering, struggle, abandonment, that will turn into beautiful tales of love, courage, forgiveness, ambition, perseverance, affection, successful life, fiery determination, self-invention, freedom. It was so beautiful to see the world through their stories, and I am thankful for the roller coaster of emotions these characters dragged me into.
Developing the writing skills
Reading enriches your vocabulary and improves your imagination, these also lead to better writing skills. It is said that in order to write better you need to read more. Reading helps you structure your thoughts into beautiful poems and novels, avoid mistakes and developing better writing techniques. Reading more widely boosts your intuition and imagination, that assist in finding new ways of describing common story-lines, inventive ways of building plots, and unique ways of standing out.
Prepares you for a good night’s rest and use your time wisely
For those people that struggle to fall asleep at night I have a tested solution: read books before bed. It helps me relax and slowly I notice how my mind switches from daily worries and finds shelter between the pages of beautiful stories. Reading also lets your muscle to relax, slows down breathing, and creates a feeling of calmness and easiness. Reading before bed is also better than watching TV or scrolling through your phone, activities that increase stress and leads the mind, because of the light – blue light, to think that is day time. I also noticed that by reading more I automatically spend less time watching movies or scrolling social media sites.
Improves language skills
Learning a new language can be hard and it requires dedication and time. One of the best advises I got when I started learning German was to read in German as much as possible. This fall I started a German course and my teacher, when finding out that I am reading a book per week, convinced me to read only in German. That is how I ended up reading Stieg Larsson’s trilogy in German, and the teacher confirmed that reading improves speaking level. Do not focus on translating each word that you do not understand, but rather understand from the context and dedicate some time to choose the right books, it can be time-consuming but it is important and you won’t be able to put down.
Reading wraps me in a quilt of wisdom and freedom, and this is the best place I wanted to be in 2020. For this year I am challenging myself with 60 books, and cannot wait to start the adventure. I am convinced that reading has many benefits and I will continue discovering this magical, unbounded and legendary world of books.
For the full list of books I delighted myself in 2020 please click the link here.
Last but not least, I am curious to hear (read) your thoughts on how important is for you reading books, and how much time and efforts you dedicated to this hobby in 2020.