21 Reasons Why Reading Is Important And Powerful

For as long as I can remember, reading has been my passion. I grew up in a home of readers who loved talking about books and sharing authors that worked for us.

My mom could not attend formal school at an early age as she and her family were interrupted by the horrors of the Holocaust. She was just a little girl when she became aware of the news of the book burning that was Kristallnacht. That horrible time became a lifelong image challenging to bear.

Of course, our history reveals how enslaved Black people could not learn how to read and face punishment if found with a book. Reading is among our greatest freedoms.

Books became my mother’s education. They were also her escape from memories she didn’t want to visit, and her means of lifting her as a well-read successful businesswoman.

I had written before about her influence on me, whether it was about managing money, investing, or simply finding the immense value of reading books. Giving and receiving books are like tickets to grow in some way. Visits to the library as a family are among my favorite memories. I love reading and having access to my own books. I often find themes about money in classics.

Reading books ignites my enthusiasm for life itself. For years, I shared my book reviews on Goodreads, Facebook, with my friends, and my family. Here, I want to share 21 reasons why reading is important and powerful for your success. I saved the best for last, about prisoners in solitary confinement who found hope reading Shakespeare.

21 Reasons Why Reading Is Important And Powerful


1. Provides An Opportunity To Learn

It doesn’t matter what you read; you’ll absorb something that will impart knowledge. Recently, I read a novel where the main character switched his career from being a medical doctor to real estate investing during gentrification. How the protagonist overcame the challenges of buying partially empty brownstones with a moral compass was fascinating.

I tend to rotate my reading between contemporary fiction, classics, and non-fiction to explore and grow mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. You can find valuable concepts essential to your job, health, and finances just by searching at your neighborhood library, bookstores, or downloading books online. 

When I was a young kid, I obsessed over reading obituaries; the longer, the better, to learn how people lived their lives. While I still do, that habit grew into reading biographies of diverse people.

2. Reading Books Out Loud To My Kids

When our kids were toddlers, or even earlier, Craig and I enjoyed reading books out loud to them when they were wide awake or to get them to go to sleep. We found our old favorites to revisit with our kids, especially when reading became more interactive and they would ask a myriad of questions or simply say, “Again!”

Tyler was obsessed with a book about sharks, and he expanded to different kinds of fish, which led to his interest in going fishing on the lake. Books and reading awakened our children to emotional and cognitive development, joy, and entertainment and helped us all form bonds over favored stories.

Both kids enjoyed the Magic Tree House series written by Mary Pope Osbourne. They could relate to the characters, brother and sister Jack and Annie, who were central to the mysterious adventures. Interestingly, Osbourne had a house on the lake we took the kids to swim and go fishing, and we would often spot her nearby.

As the years went by, Craig and I often read books, providing what we hoped would be a good model for our kids to enjoy books. It may be generational that our kids collectively don’t read as much as our friends or us.  According to the American Psychological Association study, the percentage of 12th graders who read a book or magazine dropped from 60% in the late 1970s to 16% in 2016 due to the rise of digital media.

3. Have More Empathy

By reading, we expose ourselves to many different personalities, situations, and cultures when we read. We begin to share the feelings of the characters, as we actively move through time with them.

We can better understand ourselves and others from their hardships, experiences, and outcomes. They make us cry, laugh, and ponder our own lives.

Certain characters stay with us a long time as meaningful copies of who we are or don’t want to be. Are we cheering for the “right” person in the story, and will they remain true to the image we have of that character? 

4. Reading Teaches Us To Be Humble

As a reader, it becomes clear how much we don’t know no matter how many books we read. Those who are most educated, like our medical doctors often have what is called intellectual humility.

This is in contrast to the Dunning Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where those with low ability lack fundamental awareness to assess their own capabilities and are blinded to believing they are more talented than they are.

A Pepperdine University study in 2019, led by Elizabeth J. Krumrei-Mancuso, revealed that people who are intellectually humble tend to be smarter because they have a more open mind and may change their views on new information.

Researchers quizzed participants across five distinct experiments and found that intellectual humility was linked to a greater ability to process general knowledge. They explained, “That is, knowing, and (being willing to admit!) what you don’t know may be the first step to seeking new knowledge.”  Those who thought highly of their intellect tended to overestimate their abilities.

5. Discover Places Around The World

Reading expands our view of places and cultures around the world and historical times. Through books, we can go back in the past or in the future, travel to space, across deserts, visit those who are sick, in poverty, or wealthy.  As I write this, I recall a favorite book, Time and Again by Jack Finney, where the characters traveled back to 19th century Manhattan brownstones.

6. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I enjoy historical fiction, which combines two loves of mine. For the longest time, I had a fear of reading science fiction and dystopian works, thinking it would be too technical, too abstract, too upsetting, and avoided anything that was futuristic.

Friends who were great readers would make recommendations, naming specific titles and authors I would enjoy. As Craig and I have never willingly passed a book store or used bookrack, we often had multiple copies of books we would find time to read in the future. Pulling books off the shelves, I found and devoured 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Station Eleven, Brave New World, The Giver, and Ready Player One in short order.

There are very few genres I don’t like now since my love of dystopian stories was a great learning experience.

7. Books Can Be Life-Changing

Life-changing books are rare, but when you find them they are wonderful gifts. What makes a book life-changing? Our life-changing books are individual choices, but are books that have these characteristics:

  • Have a tremendous impact on our life and soul. 
  • Can reshape the way we think and believe.
  • They can change our hearts, minds, and potentially how we see the world around us.
  • Adds a new dimension to your personal and potentially professional life.
  • Causes self-reflection.
  • Stays with us forever.

Lucky is the person who adds a new life-changing book to their library. I am almost envious when a friend is reading a book on my life-changing book list and I look forward to discussing the book. It is fun and perhaps a little selfish to give a life-changing book to friends as gifts. Here is a sample of my list: 

*Discussed below.

8. Provides Inspiration And Motivation

Fiction and non-fiction nourish your energy and expand your thoughts into new territory. Stories can excite you with new and creative ideas almost by accident. Sometimes these inspiring ideas can surprise and enlighten you. It may be a famous quote from Henry David Thoreau that you read before but is now in a different context, and provides insights into yourself you hadn’t thought of before.

There are times when I have read something that provided me with consolation and spurred me to take a long walk just to think through what had been on my mind. I have read my share of self-help books with good results, but often it may be a fictional passage that pushes me toward a new direction.

9. A Break From Social Media

I am sure I am not alone when I realize that I have spent too much time on social media, and then my iPhone lets me know how many hours I spent twiddling my digital thumbs on less than satisfying reads.

It is not all bad, especially when I am catching up with friends. Still, I never think I am wasting time when I am reading a good book or short story. There is so much more potential to learn something or be entertained on my kindle.  I do play Candy Crush to destress and recently found great fun with Wordle, and for time being, I have given up on my fight to pull my kids off social media.

10. Scientific Reasons Exercising Your Brain

There have been several studies that link reading with brain changes. Cochrane Library, a UK scientific review board found that reading, puzzles, chess, and other activities improved scores on memory and thinking tests for those with dementia equivalent to about a six to nine-month delay in worsening symptoms.

Emory University researchers using the college’s undergraduates found a powerful work of fiction (i.e., Pompeii by Robert Harris) that can make neural changes in your brain and improve its functions for days after the assignments associated with the story.

Reading books may even prolong life. A Yale study suggests the benefits of reading books, in comparison to reading magazines and newspapers, could lead to a longer life.

11. Help You With Anxiety or Depression

Just as reading can stimulate your brain physically, fiction can help people dealing with depression and anxiety to feel more connected to stories and characters facing similar situations.

Bibliotherapy is the art of using books to aid others in dealing with grief, anxiety, or depression. This area has been around since the early 20th century in the UK before making its way to the US. Although bibliotherapists may prescribe poetry, philosophy, or non-fiction, literary fiction is more common and better able for people to gain from empathetic feelings of stepping into another’s shoes.

12. Reading Can Improve Focus And Concentration

When I am reading a book I have a strong interest in, I become very focused and can screen out noise around me. I often grab a book and find a park bench or a nearby coffee shop and literally get lost in my book.

That concentration helped me get through law school as an older adult. Our kids were babies, and it was challenging to study for law school and the law bar. However, I was fortunate to be able to block people sitting around me at a Starbucks, crack open a contracts book and immerse myself like a much younger person. It is that kind of concentration that helped me get through law school as an older adult.

I was able to summarize and memorize core concepts and cases I put on index cards. There was a book I read that I attribute my abilities to focus and recall challenging concepts under stressful conditions to pass the bar to practice law. The compelling book was Moonwalking With Einstein about the author Joshua Foer’s journey as a participant in the US Memory Championship.

13. Helps Vocabulary

Since my childhood, I have always feared not knowing vocabulary words everyone else knew, and even worse, not knowing how to pronounce them. Vocabulary was a big part of standardized tests in New York City, To get into an advanced middle school (i.e., 7th to 9th grade) program, you needed to score more than two grades above your current grade in vocabulary, reading, and math.

Vocabulary was not my strong suit, but reading was the best way to lift your knowledge and decipher new words. Reading paid off, along with using a heavy dictionary by my side, as my vocabulary score rose to the eleventh-grade level. With today’s technology, no one has a legitimate excuse for not looking up challenging words.

14. Skills Booster

Growing your vocabulary is not the only benefit that you can get out of reading books.  You can expand many soft skills that can help you read more challenging books, and will be helpful in your job and career. Boosting your skills can enhance your income.

In contrast to passive reading, active reading is when you are reading the content to understand and evaluate the material for its relevance to what you hope to learn. I sometimes annotate my books, underlining passages to emphasize words, quotes, or something that jumps out. Sometimes, I challenge myself by revisiting classics I read for school or books I avoided for fear I wouldn’t enjoy them.

Active reading may slow down your pace, but it gives you so much more in return like strengthening your critical thinking or analytical skills. When reading for a second time, I am keen to find new ideas I likely glossed over when I was doing it for a homework assignment.

I especially enjoy picking books I pull off my kids’ high school reading list they’re assigned and better engage with them. Among the books I read was Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Catcher in The Rye, Anne Frank, Maus, Moby Dick, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Bluest Eye, The Scarlett Letter, and more.

When you are a more active reader, you can get more confident about reading technical books, like Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman you may need to read for your career, improve your communications and writing skills. 

15. Learn More Languages

You can learn a lot from reading in your target language which will improve your grammar and vocabulary especially when it is in context. The same way you can learn new words in English that may seem foreign may help you have a better handle on picking up foreign languages.

You can become more fluent in another language by reading a story you are familiar with in your native tongue.

16. Reading Can Be a Starting Point For Research

There are times when what you are reading tempts your cognitive senses with something new and engaging. It may cause you to question its validity or want you to recognize an interesting project for work. As a professor, I often write for peer-reviewed articles on academic topics and am always on the hunt for new material.

17. Conversation Starter

How do you start a conversation at a conference or a party where you don’t know a soul? Naturally shy, I’d rather get rope burns in such an environment. However, rather than running for the hills, I find networking is always an essential skill and usually works out after breaking the ice.

The question is how to break the ice? Although talking about the wild weather due to climate change may do the trick, it can be turn off like politics for some. Readers tend to be better conversationalists as they have broader experiences, at least through the pages. They may liken the situation they are in with a scene from a story they recently read. It is very easy to open a conversation and engage with someone when you share a book you are reading unless you happen on a non-reader.

18. Provides A Sense of Belonging

It is exhilarating to connect with people who enjoy reading and talking about books. Reading provides a sense of belonging when you are talking to people about your favorite books. I enjoy learning new titles from other people, especially when we like similar books in common.

Many of my friends are voracious readers like I am and our friendships strengthen when we share what we just read. I don’t belong to a book club but I am always on the lookout for those who are so I can pester them for their lists.

Just as having durable friends, I view my favorite books to share with others. Books are like friends that visit with you for a while.

19. Overcome Boredom

I have to be honest here. My brother, Mark, and I grew up in a home where my tolerant mother was intolerant if we ever expressed boredom. Her reasoning was this: as long as you have the freedom to choose any book and it was available, it was impossible to be bored, and if we were mistakenly bored, it probably was us who were boring.

Given her personal tragedy, we understood her philosophy about boredom, and I think that may have contributed to my workaholic nature, but that for another post. The point is that if you enjoy books and learning, there are always things to do on rainy days or during downtime. I always have a physical book or kindle on me for those short periods when I am early, waiting for someone, or traveling.

20. Reading Can Destress Us

We live stressful lives which can affect us mentally and physically. Studies have shown that reading is a good way to destress from everyday activities. It can change your focus from negative thoughts to a better place. You may want to add more humor and yoga to hedge your bets.

According to a 2009 study at Mindlab International at Sussex, reading reduced stress levels by as much as 68%, which was more than listening to music, having a cup of tea, playing video games, or going for a walk. Just six minutes of reading slowed heart rates and reduced muscle tension.

Reading can us develop our imagination and creativity, find new things we enjoy, and entertain ourselves.

21. Reading  Fulfills The Self-Taught, Including Inmates

For various reasons, some people aren’t able to fulfill their dreams to finish high school or attend college. It could be that they have to help their family, the costs are too high, or they have run into bad luck in their lives and serving time as inmates.

There are many opportunities for those who didn’t remain on the academic path to pursue education through reading books on a self-taught basis. Reading is for anyone and everyone and can lift people in the worst conditions and have no hope.

Inmates can work their way towards their GED, attend vocational or college classes. Virtually all prisons provide access to books and inmates are encouraged to read. It is not uncommon to hear of inmates who go to the law library to research legal issues like appeals specific to their cases.

A few years back, I read Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years In Solitary With The Bard by Laura Bates, a book that blew away after my initial hesitation. Laura Bates was a Shakespeare professor and a volunteer to teach English to the general population. Later, she asked the warden if she could teach Shakespeare to the solitary prisoners in the super-maximum security wing at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana.

With great effort, Bates won the campaign to teach the most notorious prisoners who were sentenced to life with no parole for the worst crimes. They had no access to the library books and, at first, no interest in reading Shakespeare.

Through her tremendous work, her program focusing on Macbeth attracted these dangerous inmates, and the waiting list kept growing as she added more of Bard’s plays. She shares the findings of her experiences and what reading Shakespeare meant to these prisoners. While the education did not change the prisoners’ sentences, they found hope, redemption, and expressed remorse.

 Final Thoughts

The benefits of reading are plentiful and are educational, provide bonding, teach humility, and can be life-changing.  Reading is a lifelong passion I share with many people. I do worry about the rise of social media replacing our books for learning, especially as a mom of two teens that may see TikTok as a reliable source.

Thank you for reading this article and share your favorite books with us! Please visit us at The Cents of Money for more articles of interest.




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