Why BYU Students Should Read Fiction and Nonfiction… For Fun

“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” Stephen King said. But the problem is that most people don’t read for fun, and that means that they’re missing out on literary magic. A recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts suggested that only 43 percent of adults read a work of literature in 2015. The survey excluded assigned reading to focus on people who read for fun, and the results revealed the lowest percentage of adult readers since the NEA began tracking reader data in 1982.

BYU students are no exception. Between their classes, homework, part-time jobs, and social lives, few students pick up books to read for pleasure. One article published by The Daily Universe suggested that students prefer reading during the summer, when they have much lighter loads. But what are the benefits of reading fiction, and why should you do it as often as possible? New psychological research suggests that readers are more empathetic than other people are, probably because reading trains the mind to put itself in other people’s shoes. Those findings have been replicated by many studies in the past few years.

FHSS has a reading list on its website, and we’re going to suggest two of our recent favorites to our readers. These are works of non-fiction written by our own professors, but they provide food for thought and fun.

  • A World Ablaze, by history professor Craig Harline. This book tells Martin Luther’s story, but it’s no history textbook. A World Ablaze reads like a work of fiction, and Harline’s storytelling will keep you flipping pages all the way to the end. Keep checking our blog for more information; we’ll publish a detailed post about the book next week.
  • Friends are fun, and psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad wrote a chapter in a recent book about the psychology of friendship, about what it means to be a friend and how we can befriend those across the race, ethnicity, gender, and orientation spectrums. This chapter also addresses what happens when a friendship turns sour, the effect of friendship on our mental health.

One of the most valuable things college students can learn is how to find books that interest them. Luckily, the Harold B. Lee Library ranks among the best college libraries in the nation, so you can find thousands of titles right on campus. You could also check out Pioneer Book on Center Street or purchase books through Amazon. If you don’t know what kind of books you yourself might be interested in, you might want to ask your roommates or favorite professors what they’re currently reading. For book recommendations, search #bookreviews, #amreading, #booknerd, or #bookstagram on Instagram.

What’s your favorite recent read?

Let us know in the comments section!

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