Last week we talked about favorite books and what makes them so meaningful to us.
This week I want to explore why we read. Why are stories so intoxicating and beneficial.
Science says “when we read, not only are we improving memory and empathy, but research has shown that it makes us feel better and more positive too. Science has shown that reading has some amazing health benefits, including helping with depression, cutting stress, and reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.” (Business Insider)
While research has a lot to say about the benefits of reading, I believe the reason we love stories goes back to our human need for relationships.
Food water and shelter are our physical needs but our fourth need to truly survive is other people. If you remember from the Tom Hank’s movie, Castaway, once he accomplished taking care of his physical needs the next thing he did was put a face on a volleyball, and give it a name. (Spoiler Alert) Our need for relationships is why we were all crying when a volleyball got lost at sea.
We all want to belong to someone or something, and in the process of reading a story we journey alongside someone we relate to, sympathize with, and want to best for.
I believe there are three reason a book connects with us and makes a mark on our hearts.
People- The first point of connection is the people in the story. The characters that either reveal a piece of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden from the world, or a person we wish we were like. A couple of the books I listed on My Favorites list, had characters that were misunderstood opinionated creatives that just want to be heard. Let’s just say that these books are my own personal therapist. Take the New York Times Bestseller, Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens. While Owens immerses us in so many levels through her writing, the connection with Kya Clark and her desire for love and connection is what draws us through the pages at lightning speed. Because belonging and being loved are deep emotional needs for everyone.
Problem- The second part of a story that draws us in, is the problem the characters have to solve. Whether it is a mystery, an unapproved romance, or world ending thriller. The problems drives us forward and keeps us reading even if it’s is two hours past bed time. (Speaking from personal experiences)
My best examples are Jurassic Park and The Di Vinci Code.
For the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, A murder inside the Louvre, and clues in Da Vinci paintings, lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years, which could shake the foundations of Christianity. We all love a good scandal, and the Church as a historical institution has many mysteries, so who wouldn’t get sucked in, or who didn’t get sucked into this story.
Dinosaurs are alive, loose on an island, where kids are in danger of being eaten. How will they survive, who will save them? Jurassic Park is a page turner plus multi-million dollar legacy on page one please.
PURPROSE- This is what makes a book really powerful. When the characters and the problems cause a change within our hearts and minds. Books that give us knew perspectives and insight into a problem or situation that we would have never seen before. From a list of Top Books of all Time, a vast majority have a strong opinion or purpose between the lines of the problems the people are forced into by the author. Examples being The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. To Kill a Mocking Bird, The great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, and Catcher in the Rye to name only a few. A book that challenges one’s thinking is the goal of any book, but those that truly pierce us to the core are few and far between.
These three things are why we read. We as human beings always want to challenge and explore ourselves, and reading gives us that opportunity without the cost of a therapist.
Do you enjoy reading?