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Network Health Blog

The Health Benefits of Reading

Jeremy Library

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -Joseph Addison

Every Wisconsinite knows the winter months can be long. The limited day light, the cold and snow can be brutal. But Network Health associate Jeremy Kroll doesn’t seem to mind. The winter months provide a great opportunity to catch up on one of his favorite hobbies, reading.

The benefits of reading have long been established. Several studies show that reading can reduce stress, provide mental stimulation, improve memory and possibly even prevent diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Your mind is a lot like other muscles of the body—the more you use it, the stronger and healthier it gets.

So when the snow and cold keeps you indoors, don’t worry. In the interview below, Jeremy offers his insights on how to develop a love for reading and where to start.

Q: Have you always been an avid reader?

“Yes almost my whole life and I have sibling rivalry to thank for that in part. When I was seven years old, I was considered an average to poor reader by my teachers, I didn’t have a lot of interest in books. Then one day I found a book that really caught my eye during our library period at school. Unfortunately, it was on the table for books deemed too hard for me to check out. When I tried to check it out anyway, my teacher tried to talk me out of it. Eventually she agreed when one of the library staff said “his sister is a really strong reader, she can help him.”

I never asked my sister for help with it, but my injured childhood pride did drive me to finish that book and many others that interested me, regardless of how challenging the material.”

Q; What is it about reading that you most enjoy?

“I read for both pleasure and enrichment and take from each book something a little different. Books often help me appreciate and understand the people around me when I strive to understand the characters or authors. Some books are just pleasant escapes but I also love reading old ones where I might disagree with the author or find their ideas outdated.

For example, I have a book of essays published just following the civil war and written by southern landholders that is one of my favorites. It clashes with my personal beliefs but gave me insight into the minds of people that history often over simplifies. Through it, I saw the struggle with different eyes and in light of different beliefs. My views have not been changed by it but my understanding of the conflict has been broadened. I think this is because books often convey someone’s complex thoughts, where a movie tends to focus on their direct actions.”

Q: What is your all-time favorite book?

  “I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one but I had a copy of Watership Down I read and reread when I was young until the covers fell off. That story has always stayed among my favorites. It is similar to Animal Farm with animals serving as the main characters, ones that show through their actions all of humanity’s flaws and strengths. As something that was clearly fiction, it took away all of my preconceived thoughts on democracy, socialism and communism and made me discover them anew as I saw them demonstrated without the comforting labels to tell me what to think first.”

Q: What book(s) would you recommend for someone just starting to read for enjoyment?

“Don’t try to impress people by reading poetry or the classics right away unless you are actually interested, dodge the best sellers too. There are great books among those genres but ignore the age limits or what others say you should read and just read about what you enjoy. Your horizons and taste will evolve and grow all on their own. If you want to read books about cats, the old west, politics or wizards go for it.

As for a personal recommendation… Tad Williams is a fun place to start and has written everything from a “sequel” to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Caliban’s Hour), Sci-Fi (Otherland), epic fantasy (The Dragonbone Chair) and even a book with cats as the heroes and villains, Tailchaser’s Song. Hopefully he has something for every interest and he is among one of my favorite authors.”

Q: What is the best advice or lesson you ever learned while reading?

“It will sound a little sappy but the difference between passion and enduring love. In my youth, I wasn’t comfortable asking a “grown up” about such issues, but a series of adventure novels I read in middle school stands out for delivering that message. The main character’s struggle to understand his own heart gave me a small bit of wisdom to later understand my own.”

Make 2017 the year you improve your analytical skills by reading more. Leave a comment below to tell us your favorite book recommendations.

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 Discussion

6 comments

  1.  Jessica Thomaschefsky says:

    I love historical fiction. Especially books about World War II and ancient Egypt.

  2.  Peggy Murphy says:

    I love to read, it helps me relax before sleeping each night.

  3.  Wendy Miller says:

    Thanks for the great article , Jeremy. Did you know that NH has an informal book club?! Well, we do -or at least did, until most of us went remote. It started over at 222 when we were all over there,we would pick a book , read it and then meet after work somewhere downtown. Hopefully we will begin again online and find someway to get together.

  4.  Hannah Zillmer says:

    Jeremy, what a thoughtful and interesting article. I read mostly historical fiction and my husbands reads mostly ACTUAL history. We bond over a shared interest in biographies.

  5.  Julie Cleaves says:

    Great article. Very insightful and inspirational. Thanks Jeremy!

  6.  Amanda Summers says:

    As an avid reader myself, I’ve found that being part of a book club has definitely helped to expose me to new genres and authors that I wouldn’t have otherwise read. The only draw back is that my “to read” list grows ever longer and longer. If I find myself in a reading rut, I consult with friends, a clerk at my favorite library or book store; they’re always full of great suggestions!

    One idea that my book club has grown to love is “book report” meetings; in which we don’t have an assigned read. Rather, we each talk about the book(s) that we’re presently reading. It’s quite enlightening to learn what we’re all reading. These discussions often lead to intriguing topical conversations

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