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My Favorite Books and Why Reading is Important for Health
Ahhhh, reading. I feel like it’s such an important thing to do, and most people don’t know that reading is important for health! Whether it’s books, blogs, magazines, or whatever else you might enjoy- reading is one of the best hobbies to have. However, it’s a practice that many Americans are not really into unfortunately. In 2015 it was estimated that about 72% of Americans had read one book that year- but this also included reading a book “in part” so the number is likely much lower. The amount of adults that read has been steadily declining over the years, likely because of the rise of social media, addicting phone games, and the ability to binge-watch shows. I’m also convinced that forcing kids in school to read only books they don’t want to read makes it such an UN-enjoyable pastime!
Why Reading is Important for Health
- Memory and cognitive health can be improved with reading. Since it is stimulating to your brain, it helps to keep your brain active and engaged, which apparently can help in preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. The more you use your brain, the easier it can be to remember other things- names, addresses, numbers, etc.
- Critical thinking skills can be improved as well! This is a huge point for me, and I actually think I’m going to make a whole post about it one day. Schools seem so much more focused on teaching how to recite things from memory, how to spell, use a computer, and many other things that don’t really actively engage criticial thinking. Reading a GREAT novel can seriously get you thinking- “what’s going to happen?! Who kidnapped this character? Oh my goodness, I think I can figure it out myself, but let’s read more to see what happens!” Looking at the clues, picking up on small dialogue, and being completely immersed in the book can truly help you to gain critical thinking skills.
- Imagination is needed to read! You have to picture the characters, the settings, and the possible outcomes of the story line as you’re reading. This goes along with keeping your brain active as well. Some prefer reading for this exact reason- they like to picture things in their own head THEIR way- with TV shows and movies, characters and places don’t always translate well from page to screen. This imagination that you use for reading can also help if you like to write too!
- Vocabulary and knowledge expansion can be improved dramatically with reading. This one is likely a given, but the more you read, the more words you’re exposed to. When you come across new words, you other will have to look the word up in a dictionary, or use clues in the surrounding sentences to figure out what it means. When you’re reading non-fiction or even historical fiction based a lot on fact, you will be gaining SO much new knowledge as well. As someone that LOVES knowing things, I can highly recommend reading as a great way to expand your knowledge.
- Stress relief is another great benefit of reading. One main reason is because you have to sit and focus on the book in order to enjoy it. This can help you to forget the outside world for a bit and take some stress off of your shoulders. When you find a genre that you like, it’s also easy to look forward to reading by the end of the day when you know you’ll get a chance to unwind.
- Less screen time! OK well this only applies if you’re reading physical books only (I read both myself!). But if you have a nice collection of regular books, you can begin to reduce the amount of time you’re attached to a screen. This alone has numerous health benefits, especially if you are reading the real book before bed (even with a book light!)- blue light from screens stimulates cortisol production, which is NOT something we want at night because it can keep us up longer. Reading with a small book light or even a dim lamp is the perfect setting to set up a good night of sleep- it’s sort of what our ancestors did with candle light!
Where to get the Best Deals on Books
One concern that many people have is how expensive books can be at times. There are many ways to save money on books though. If you can, the discount cards at stores like Barnes and Noble or Books a Million are totally worth it. While the card itself might only save 10% off each purchase, they are CONSTANTLY sending coupons in the mail or through email. For example, I usually get monthly coupons in the mail from B&N to save an extra 20% off of any item or book and I get weekly emails from both companies for in-store or online deals.
I know in this age of technology and eBooks it might seem outdated to own physical books- but there are SO many benefits to owning REAL books: they help to limit screen time, you can have a collection to pass on to your kids, and it’s just so satisfying to hold a book in your hand. Plus, for myself, I find it much easier to re-read a book that I can take off of a shelf because I can actually see it, versus scrolling through countless lists online trying to figure out what I’m looking for.
Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading are great too.
- Kindle Unlimited is $9.99 a month (but you can snag a one month free trial here), and it’s exactly what it sounds like- you can read an unlimited amount of books with this membership through a Kindle app or your Kindle Fire. There are over 1 million books to choose from, and thousands of audiobooks! They have everything from bestsellers like The Handmaid’s Tale and Harry Potter, to kids books, to language learning books, and plenty of non-fiction as well. Well worth the money if you’re an avid reader! You can check out 10 books at a time too, and just return them once you are done so you can check out more.
- Prime Reading is included with any Amazon Prime membership. You have access to about a thousand books, magazines, and Kindle singles for free! Many of these books also include Audible narration so you can switch between reading and listening if that is your thing. Or if you prefer audiobooks in general, you can get a free trial with Audible!
- Amazon still offers the regular Kindle reader or they have the newest Fire tablet models. You can also just download the Kindle app on your phone or computer for free!
And of course- Don’t forget about your local library!!!
My FAVORITE Books and Authors
Get ready for a long list, and hopefully some inspiration for picking your next book! You can also check out my Goodreads profile for more ideas- there are about 300 books on there.
The Mists of Avalon
This book is just beyond incredible. My own words will never do it justice. If you love stories about King Arthur or just medieval type stories, this book is for you. The difference between this book and all of the other King Arthur-era books is that this is from the perspective of the women in his world- his sister, Morgaine; his mother, Igraine; and his aunt Viviane, the Lady of the Lake. I’ve read this book close to ten times since I first got it when I was about 14 years old- and it is 876 pages so that is quite a lot of reading. I just love it that much. There are some prequels and other books associated with this one too, but I admittedly have not read them yet, but I plan to. This books stands perfectly fine on its own.
Harry Potter Series
Obviously this series will be on my list. Total Potterhead here. Like I mentioned in my About Me post, I was the perfect age when the Harry Potter books and movies came out. I read the first 3 soooo many times while I was awaiting the next books in the series. I have started reading the series every 1-2 years now for the last 5 years or so too. While the books were magical enough when I was a kid, you can get so much more out of the story as an adult. JK Rowling siruisly- I mean seriously- created one of the best series of all time.
Game of Thrones Series
While the TV series might have dropped the ball on that last season, I still have faith that the rest of this book series will be great. I have read all 5 of the current books twice in the last few years. The books are incredibly long but they are SO much better than the show. There is so more in books that that would never be able to translated to screen. Some of the storylines in the books are different than the show, but overall it’s just a LOT more detail than the show so you get to really learn more about the characters, their personalities, and the plot lines.
The Luxe Series
This series is technically teen fiction (gasp!) but honestly it is one of my favorite series ever. I bought them on a whim one day at a book store because they were on the clearance table, and it was the best bargain buy ever. Although, funny story: I let my BFF borrow them and, well, her dog ate them, so she got me the whole series for Christmas to replace them. Love you, lady!
So this series consists of 4 books: The Luxe, Rumors, Envy, and Splendor. The series is set in 1899 Manhattan in the high society scene. There is so much scandal, love, heartbreak, and major twists that make this series so great. The story focuses on sisters Elizabeth and Diana of the Holland family, one of the most prosperous families in the city. Elizabeth’s friend Penelope Hayes is an up-and-comer in their world, and has her heart set on the most popular of the bachelor’s, Henry Schoonmaker. Sounds a bit fluffy, I’m sure- but I promise, it’s a good series!
Books by Alison Weir
Alison Weir is essentially the queen of Tudor history. She has written countless novels and non-fiction books on the Tudor era (although she does branch out into other time periods as well). Her writing is easy to read, engaging, and incredibly informative, in both her fiction and non-fiction books. Currently, her Six Queens novel series is one of the most popular of her works. She’s been putting out one book every year so far- and we just got book number 4 about Anna of Cleve last month.
Other favorites of mine: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Life of Elizabeth I, The Wars of the Roses, Captive Queen- a novel of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and The Lady in the Tower (the fall of Anne Boleyn).
Michelle Moran currently has 7 historical fiction novels about various queens and other important women in history. I have read Rebel Queen (a story of Queen Lakshmi of India); Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution; Nefertiti ; The Heretic Queen (about the niece of Nefertiti ); and Cleopatra’s Daughter. Her other books are The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court; Mata Hari’s Last Dance; and The Last Queen of India. Moran’s writing is very descriptive, very well researched, and you truly are transported back to these time periods. The women she writes about are amazingly interesting characters, and she truly makes it easy to believe that these could have actually been a part of their stories.
Margaret George’s bio on Amazon states that she ” specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama.” This is literally the best way to describe her books. EPIC. These books are so long (most are nearly 1000 pages) and packed from cover to cover with detail. There is never a dull moment in any of these books. I first read her book The Autobiography of Henry VIII about 9-10 years ago and that was my first step into the Tudor history world. After that, I devoured the majority of her other books: The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Elizabeth I: The Novel, and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. I still have yet to read her other 2 books, The Confessions of Young Nero and Mary, called Magdalene (I’ve never seen them in libraries or stores!).
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I do love mythology as well, so whenever I see anything relating to it, I tend to jump on it. This was an interesting novel for sure, and apparently Amazon readers agree- 4.4 star rating with about 2500 reviews at the time of writing this. From Amazon’s listing “Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.”
The Walking Dead Comics
Bet you didn’t think to see a comic book on this list! I’ve read and collected a large majority of these comics and they are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I love them even more since the TV show was ruined a few seasons ago (if you watch the show at all, I’m sure you know what moment I mean!).
Some other great books and authors I’ve loved:
- The Rule of One Series by the Saunders twins- Very intriguing series, and the second book was just released recently. This is set in a world where families are only allowed to have one child- but the focus of the story is on a set of twins! There are a lot of twists and turns, and I can’t wait for the last book to come out.
- Hunger Games– as much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, this series is a classic case of “the books were better”.
- Tony Riches– Tony has several incredible novels about Tudor History. His Tudor Trilogy actually was written in the view of the starters of the Tudor line: Owen, Jasper, and Henry. Highly recommend them!
- Chemical Garden Series– yea, I know, another teen series. What can I say? These writers are truly creative! This series consists of 3 books: Wither, Fever, and Sever. It was actually recommended to me by my old boss when I worked at a bookstore, and she was pretty much always right when she knew I’d like a book!
- Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake– this book just came on Kindle Unlimited recently and I was so excited. I have been wanting to read it since I saw it in stores but I already bought quite a few new books (hahahaha) so I couldn’t exactly buy another one. I am only about halfway through, but now I see that it’s actually a series, yay!
- The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani– currently on Kindle Unlimited, and another book with a near perfect rating (4.7 stars with 7000+ reviews).
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
- The Magicians Series (also a TV series!) by Lev Grossman
- My whole list of books I’ve read on Goodreads (well, not the WHOLE list… only what I’ve been able to track since I joined Goodreads!)