The Next Journey

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ~Anna Quindlen, novelist and journalist

I get on reading jags from time to time and I’m on one right now. It started when I found a hardcover copy of Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus (2013) for $3 a few days ago in a discount bookstore (the coauthor is Martin Dugard). The cultural background and history was so rich and descriptive that I couldn’t stop reading it until I was done. Bill O’Reilly, journalist, New York Times bestselling author, political commentator, and former television host, and Martin Dugard, also a New York Times bestselling author, have teamed up to write several books in the Killing Series,” starting with Killing Lincoln published in 2011.

As soon as I finished “Killing Jesus” I went back to that discount bookstore to see what other books they had in the “Killing Series.” They had three–Killing Lincoln,” “Killing Reagan,” and Killing Kennedy,” so I picked “Killing Kennedy” (2012) since I was a young girl of eleven at the time President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, in November 1963. I’m now 2/3rds of the way through that book, and it has been a riveting read. I’m sure there are more “Killing Series” books in my future… 🙂

Since the theme of this blog is about journeys, and as the Anne Quindlen quote at the top of this post states, reading a good book is like going on a journey, and one doesn’t even have to leave home to do it, either, thanks to Kindles and Nooks and other tablets one can download digital copies of books onto nowadays. However, I still prefer holding a real book in my hand, and one of my favorite things to do is wander through bookstores. You have no idea how sad I was when Borders went bankrupt back in 2011 (see article titled, Why Borders Failed While Barnes & Nobles Survived dated July 19, 2011, at this link). It was my very favorite bookstore at that time.

For three days this past week I spent time walking through the countryside around Jerusalem and on streets that Jesus walked on in “Killing Jesus,” and I experienced the political and religious intrigue of his day, too. And for the past two days I’ve gone back in time to the early 1960’s with all of the hotbed issues that President Kennedy had to deal with before his assassination in November 1963. If you’re old enough, do you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962? I was ten at the time it occurred and I had no idea how really serious it was until I read about it in “Killing Kennedy.” I do remember the air raid drills we endured at my elementary school when we had to crawl under our desks (as if that would save anyone from a thermonuclear war) when the sirens went off during the drills.

There is nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. And, it’s good for you, too. Just take a look at these 5 Ways Reading Improves Your Health,” published in 2014 by The Book Insider:

Book lovers know there’s no feeling like getting lost in a great book. Page after page seems to fly by as you get more and more entrenched in the plot and character development. It’s almost as if you’re in the scenes and participating in the outcome. What you may not realize, however, is this activity is not only fun, but also great for your health! Check out these five surprising health benefits of reading.

1) Reduced Stress

When you get caught up in a great book and all your thoughts are consumed by the plot and characters, it seems like your everyday worries and stresses disappear. Not only does it seem that way, but it’s actually a proven fact! This 2009 study proves that reading for only six minutes can reduce stress by 68 percent, as well as slow your heart rate and minimize muscle tension. After a stressful day at work, instead of turning on the television, crack open a great book or fire up the Kindle in order to relax.

2) Improved Memory

Okay, maybe this one isn’t too surprising. Just like your muscles, your brain loves a good workout too. Reading regularly exercises your noggin, and all those synapses firing can actually improve your memory. In addition, a recent study showed that elderly people who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.

3) Younger Brain

Of course we can’t stop the aging process (as much as we’d like to), but reading can help slow it down. This study showed that reading can significantly reduce your rate of cognitive decline. So curl up with a good book each night if you want to keep that brain young and spry.

4) Increased Empathy

Who knew that reading books could make you a nicer person? Apparently getting emotionally absorbed in a book carries over into real life. This study found that people who regularly immerse themselves in fictional stories are more empathetic. Even though the characters are fictional, relating to their situations causes us to be more open to real people in our lives.

5) Increased Tolerance for Uncertainty

Let’s be honest, all of us have struggled with ambiguity or lack of control in personal situations in the past. It can be stressful not knowing the future. Surprisingly, one easy way to cope is to read more. One study showed that reading fiction can cause an increase in tolerance for uncertainty. As people dive deeper and deeper into fictional stories and characters, their minds actually open up, and they become more comfortable with possibilities, options, and uncertainty.

Everyone knows reading is fun, but the benefits outlined above can really improve your health and life. If you’re reading a lot already, good for you! And if you’re not, try to find more time to read if you can. One thing you’ll need for sure is…LOTS OF BOOKS! (Quote source here.)

How about that for good news! And to reinforce what has been written above, in another article titled, 8 Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real) Book,” by Abigail Wise, editor and writer, you’ll find out why real books are better for you than e-books:

Bookworms can see some serious perks to their health and happiness. Want to really reap the benefits of reading? Reach for an old-fashioned, printed book.

Although more and more people own e-books, it seems safe to say that real books aren’t going anywhere yet. Eighty-eight percent of the Americans who read e-books continue to read printed ones as well. And while we’re all for the convenience of digital downloads and a lighter load, we can’t bring ourselves to part with the joy of a good, old-fashioned read.

There’s nothing like the smell of old books or the crack of a new one’s spine. (Plus, you’ll never run low on battery.) And it turns out that diving into a page-turner can also offer benefits toward your health and happiness. Here are eight smart reasons to read a real book.

It increases intelligence.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Diving into a good book opens up a whole world of knowledge starting from a very young age. Children’s books expose kids to 50 percent more words than prime time TV, or even a conversation between college graduates, according to a paper from the University of California, Berkeley. Exposure to that new vocabulary not only leads to higher score on reading tests, but also higher scores on general tests of intelligence. Plus, stronger early reading skills may mean higher intelligence later in life.

A quick tip: If you’re looking for a power read, opt for a traditional book. Research suggests that reading on a screen can slow you down by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

Plus, it can boost your brain power.

Not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can actually increase your brain power. Just like going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good work out. With age comes a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading may help slow the process, keeping minds sharper longer, according to research published in Neurology. Frequent brain exercise was able to lower mental decline by 32 percent, reports The Huffington Post.

Reading can make you more empathetic.

Getting lost in a good read can make it easier for you to relate to others. Literary fiction, specifically, has the power to help its readers understand what others are thinking by reading other people’s emotions, according to research published in Science. The impact is much more significant on those who read literary fiction as opposed to those who read nonfiction. “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote of their findings.

Flipping pages can help you understand what you’re reading.

When it comes to actually remembering what you’re reading, you’re better off going with a book than you are an e-book. The feel of paper pages under your fingertips provides your brain with some context, which can lead to a deeper understanding and better comprehension of the subject you’re reading about, Wired reports. So to reap the benefits of a good read, opt for the kind with physical pages.

It may help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Reading puts your brain to work, and that’s a very good thing. Those who who engage their brains through activities such as reading, chess, or puzzles could be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spend their down time on less stimulating activities. The paper suggests that exercising the brain may help because inactivity increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, inactivity is actually an early indicator of the disease, or a little of each.

Reading can help you relax.

There’s a reason snuggling up with a good book (and maybe a glass of wine) after a long day sounds so appealing. Research suggests that reading can work as a serious stress-buster. One 2009 study by Sussex University researchers showed that reading may reduce stress by as much as 68 percent. “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination,” cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis​ told The Telegraph.

Reading before bed can help you sleep.

Creating a bedtime ritual, like reading before bed, signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. Reading a real book helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen before bed. Screens like e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep. That applies to kids too: Fifty-four percent of children sleep near a small screen, and clock 20 fewer minutes of shut-eye on average because of it, according to research published in Pediatrics. So reach for the literal page-turners before switching off the light.

Reading is contagious.

Seventy-five percent of parents wish their children would read more for fun, and those who want to encourage their children to become bookworms can start by reading out loud at home. While most parents stop reading out loud after their children learn to do it on their own, a new report from Scholastic suggests that reading out loud to kids throughout their elementary school years may inspire them to become frequent readers—meaning kids who read five to seven days per week for fun. More than 40 percent of frequent readers ages six through 10 were read to out loud at home, but only 13 percent of those who did not read often for fun were. Translation? Story time offers a good way to spark an interest in the hobby. (Quote source here.)

If you don’t have the money to travel or to buy an airplane ticket (I know the feeling), or the time to get away from the stresses of life, get lost in a good book, and improve your health while you’re at it. 🙂 As for me, right now I need to get back and finish reading “Killing Kennedy.” It may be “The End of Camelot,” but it’s a road to better health, too!

So if you’re looking for a journey . . .

Find your next journey . . .

In a book . . . .

YouTube Video: It’s hard to find a song about reading, so instead, here’s “Happy” by Pharrell Williams:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here