The Quest for Happiness, One Book at a Time

Belle totally had the right idea.

Belle totally had the right idea.

Let’s add a literary twist to an old saying: a book a day keeps the frown away. According to a study commissioned by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport, going to the library gives people the same emotional boost that receiving a raise at work does. The study concluded that a significant association was found between those who went to the library on a frequent basis and their reported well-being. Researchers have even pointed out that reading at a fast pace increases one’s feelings of creativity, self-confidence and happiness (even if the material is is of the sad, depressing kind). Based on my personal experience, I definitely agree with this study. I used to read a lot more as a kid (back when I didn’t have a full-time job and other responsibilities that come along with being an adult *sigh*), and those were some of the happiest times of my life. There are many benefits that are associated with reading and I’m going to touch on the main ones here.

Reading is a form of escapism. You can ready about anything and live vicariously through one (or several) of the characters in a book. Whenever I read a novel or story, I always choose a character that is “me”. It was Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice and Emma in well, Emma, and Jo in Little Women…basically, any of the empowering female characters with a generous romantic storyline – that was me. Even if a vicarious romance isn’t what you’re in the market for, there’s still a lot you can get out by putting yourself in the shoes of different characters. Just ask any kid, boy or girl, who traveled the open oceans, fought pirates and visited exotic deserted islands by pretending to be Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island.

Reading educates. Have you always wanted to read up more on a certain topic or learn about something new but don’t have the time, money or means to enroll in a course or interview an expert? Library books are like free seminars, where you can read about anything from quantum physics to the pathologies of communicable diseases to Zen gardening. Not to mention that there are so many different kinds of books written from various perspectives designed to teach you about topics in different ways, whether you’re looking for a first person autobiography to a children’s picture book that breaks things down step-by-step. It’s also a great way to dip your toes into a topic to determine if it even interests you at all before proceeding any further.

Reading inspires. As a writer, I find much of my inspiration and insight by reading what other people write. Learning about different styles of writing, reading from different perspectives and seeing how authors treat certain topics and tales reminds me that there is no one right way to write. It’s okay to take risks, but sometimes we’re so afraid to do it ourselves that we have to see how others do it first while we work up the courage to do the same thing. Just remember: be careful not to confuse inspiration with imitation or, even worse, plagiarism. It’s not cute, and it’s actually illegal.

Reading is cheap (if not free). When it comes to picking up a new hobby, there’s none that’s as cost-effective and friendly to your wallet as reading is. If you want to pick up a sport as your hobby, chances are you’ll have to drop some dough on necessary gear like equipment, clothing, and dues if you join a team. The same goes for learning how to play a musical instrument or taking art classes. This is not true for reading. Last we checked, most (if not all) public libraries offer free memberships and borrowing privileges to potential patrons. And if you own some kind of device that can connect to the Internet (which we assume you do, seeing as how you’re reading this online article right now), there are thousands of free e-books and PDF versions of books for your downloading and devouring pleasure. Many libraries oftentimes have their own databases of e-books that you can access once you become a member of the institution. So unless you’re the kind of person who likes to own the hardcover version of every book you read, there’s no reason why you should be shelling out the shekels for the books you read.

Check out for information on nearby public libraries and other reading resources. Happy reading!

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