If you’re here on this page, you’re most likely a reader of some sort. Whether you read for education or entertainment, you realize there is something to gain from reading. So, it would delight you to know that September 6 is National Read a Book Day!
According to a recent study, over 74% of Americans have read at least one book in the last 12 months, so there’s room for everyone on this occasion.
National Read a Book Day was first celebrated around 2010, but reading has been going on for many years at this point…obviously. People have been collecting and reading books for centuries, so having a day to finally celebrate this long-lived tradition is very exciting. Here is a brief history of reading from around the world:
- 4000 BC: Earliest writing remnants found in Mesopotamia. Beginnings of lines were found on walls, possibly to represent animals or faces. Regardless, the writing on the wall was possibly the beginning of the modern writing system.
- 2300 BC: The earliest known author, the Akkadian Princess and High Priestess, Enheduanna, wrote hymns and signed her name on clay tablets. There were most likely originally meant to be read out loud.
- 7th Century BC: The first organized library is established in the Ancient Middle East by an Assyrian Ruler with a collection of more than 30,000 cruciform tablets.
- 1450: The Gutenberg Printing Press is developed. This was the first way to print books without hand-copying writing.
- 1455: The first Bible is printed. While it was the first Bible, it was also the first book to ever be printed.
- 1800-1900: There is an increase in accessibility to books and literacy for the common person.
- 2010: 66% of public libraries now offer electronic books.
The Benefits of Reading
While you are preparing for National Read a Book Day, you should keep in mind the plusses of reading. First off, reading helps to strengthen the brain. A 2013 study concluded that brain activity during and after reading a book is significantly increased in terms of brain connectivity, especially the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations. The study also showed that tense scenes in books light up the brain drastically more on brain scans. While reading does increase brain activity, it also helps to reduce stress. A separate study shows that 30 minutes of reading can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor. Reading can also reduce the risks of depression symptoms.
The two most obvious benefits of reading are the educational and entertainment aspects. Part of the reason teachers consistently advocate for their students to read often is the increase in vocabulary. The Matthew Effect, based on the Bible verse Matthew 13:12, encourages the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. While this is not quite what the Bible verse is interested in, in a reading sense, the Matthew Effect states that those who read more often gain greater vocabulary.
Outside of an academic setting, an increased vocabulary benefits people within the job market. One of the most valued “soft skills” in most corporations in this day and age is the ability to communicate effectively, and reading is the perfect way to grow this skill.
Part of reading for most people is the entertainment aspect. Reading offers a great way to disconnect from blue light screens, while also providing a way to occupy your time. Now that it’s National Read a Book Day, you have a perfect excuse to read! Whether you read to yourself in your bed or out loud to other people, this is an excellent day to enjoy yourself. Even better, find a book club to have a discussion with about one or many of the books you spend your time reading.
However, due to the large assortment of books in the world right now, and it can be daunting to try and find a book to read for such a great holiday. Whether you are interested in classic novels, non-fiction books, or poetry, there can be something for everyone. Below, I’ve listed some possible options to explore for the perfect National Read a Book Day read.
- The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot
- Explores life in London after World War I through various landscapes, such as the ocean and desert.
- The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- Tells the story of a boy from a small planet who travels the universe seeking wisdom. Along the way, he discovers the unpredictability of adults.
- The Pearl, John Steinbeck
- A parable about a Mexican Indian pearl diver, Kino, who finds a valuable pearl and is transformed by the evil it attracts.
- A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
- Addresses the status of female artists in an essay that asserts that women must have their own space and money in order to write.
- Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard
- A philosophical telling that asks what the real nature of our personal relationship with God might be and how faith might interact with ethics through stories such as Abraham and Isaac.
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
- A witty collection of essays that recount a lifelong love affair with books and language.
- And Then There were None, Agatha Christie
- The store of 10 strangers who are lured to Indian Island by a mysterious host. Once they have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder.
- Fox 8, George Saunders
- A fox’s written recounting of recent events in his life, such as learning to speak, read, and write the human language by listening to a human mother read to her children.
- The Circus, Jonas Karlsson
- The store of two friends who visited the circus, one of whom volunteered to be in a magic act and disappeared.
- Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
- Collection of poetry and prose about survival in experiences of violence, abuse, love, and loss.
- Plainwater, Anne Carson
- The stories of water and its creatures told through the lens of the muse of a 15th-century painter attending a phenomenology conference in Italy.
- Sons of Achilles, Nabila Lovelace
- An attempt to examine the space between violence and intimacy told through mythical characters.
- Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
- Story of a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to a land of strange and mysterious creatures.
- The Napping House, Audrey and Don Wood
- The store of a napping house where a granny and all the house’s inhabitants cozy up for a nap.
- Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
- The tale of a pig named Wilbur and his spider friend, Charlotte, who saves his life by writing about him in a web.
Whether you are reading for entertainment or education, National Read a Book Day is an excellent opportunity to take the time to read. Visit your library, a used book shop, or even download an electronic book so you too can enjoy National Read a Book Day this September 6!