Relaxed Woman Reading a Book

Reading has many benefits. A regular reading habit can reduce stress, improve memory and enhance positivity. It also has been shown to increase empathy by making it easier to practice considering another person's perspective. If you enjoy reading, you probably don’t need to be convinced that a nightly book habit is a good idea.

It’s common, however, to fall into a rut, picking up the same genre or selections that you never quite seem to find the motivation to finish. You started out the year with ambitious reading goals, but now, a few months into 2021, your Goodreads tracker tells you that you are woefully behind schedule. Maybe you have fallen into old habits and the excitement is no longer there. The good news is that there are a lot of tools out there to introduce you to new choices and get you back on track. The right book challenge can help broaden your reading list and break down your yearly goal into smaller, more manageable steps.

Embrace a New Genre

A different genre can open up new possibilities. Reading the fantasy series that your teens enjoy gives you something other than their grades to talk about. Reading more memoirs can help you understand people whose lives are very different from your own a little better. It's good to break out of comfortable habits to inspire new conversations and connections with others. There are many 2021 challenges that encourage and reward exploration of different genres:

Specific challenges are useful when you are reading a new-to-you genre because they have built-in social support to help you meet your goals. If you can't find a challenge for the specific type of book you want to start reading, you can always make your own list or ask a librarian or book club friend for suggestions.

Find New Authors

Even avid readers often find themselves choosing books by authors who look and think like they do. An easy way to diversify your reading list is to choose a few new authors to read each year whose race, ethnicity, culture or political affiliations differ from your own. You may find that those who present different viewpoints sharpen your own worldview and give you a clearer picture of why you believe and behave the way you do. Reading can be a gentle way to introduce yourself to another way of life or an alternate perspective on the world. You may even learn new information that causes you to reevaluate some of your most firmly held beliefs. By reading one or more books by an author you wouldn't usually select, you broaden both your mind and your ability to empathize.

Explore Social Justice

As a member of a faith community, you are likely aware of the church's need to land on the side of justice. To do this effectively, the church must be comprised of well-informed congregants. If you find that your TBR list consists of predominantly male authors, you may be missing out on the vital perspectives that reading women can offer. Reading books written by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors can give you a keener insight into struggles you have not had to endure personally. This benefit isn't just limited to nonfiction works on social justice. Some of the clearest points are made through fiction because a story doesn't have to be factual to hold a lot of truth.

You may read for pleasure or relaxation, but expanding your selections can keep you open to ideas and inform new passions. Effective community action often begins with the perspectives gained by reading outside one's comfort zone and inviting others to do the same.

Category: Health and Wellness

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