Joining a book club is by far one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Not being quite the social butterfly, I was very hesitant to join at first but its one decision I don’t regret doing.
There are book clubs for every interest, every genre, and for every level of commitment – ranging from simple social clubs that bond together over a love of books and clubs that are dedicated to crushing and authors entire catalog and really dissecting each and every single sentence choice they wrote down (as well as everything in between).
There are a lot of big benefits you get out of joining a book club – some of them a little less obvious than others. Below I’ll highlight seven reasons you want to consider joining (or even starting) a book club ASAP!
1. Structure Your Reading
Even those that really love to read frequently find themselves falling behind on their “back catalog” of books they want to tackle just because not reading is so simple and so easy to do.
With book clubs, though, there’s almost always going to be established deadlines for each meetup and each group discussion. The last thing you want to have happened is to find yourself being the only person ill-prepared to discuss the books you all agreed to read. This structure creates the habit of reading that translates to the rest of your reading time, too.
2. Instant Social Circle
All right, this is probably the most obvious of all the benefits you’ll get out of joining a book club but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable or important!
Some studies suggest that 61% of those ages 16 and older have a library card, with the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the average American reads for pleasure just 17 minutes per day on average – and less than 19% of the American population reads books for pleasure at all.
Trying to connect with like-minded individuals that love books the way you do (all on your own) can be a bit of a tall task, but book clubs turn that on its head and make it about as simple and straightforward as humanly possible.
3. Exposure to New Authors
Everyone that loves to read has their favorite authors and their favorite genres, as well as authors and genres that they wouldn’t ever think of picking up on their own – unless they had to as part of a book club.
But clubs have a unique ability to expand your horizons, expose you to some pretty special books you might not have ever read otherwise, and help you get an extra appreciation for these authors and these genres through the conversations and discussions you have with your club members.
4. You (Might) Live Longer
New research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that those belonging to a club or group that meets on a regular basis can significantly reduce their overall risk for premature death, particularly after an individual has retired.
Admittedly the research into book clubs saving your life – or at the very least prolonging it – is in its infancy right now. But the early indications are very positive and it’s hard to imagine there being any negative side effects of joining a book club that would harm your short or long-term health.
5. Strengthen Your Mind
Your mind isn’t necessarily a muscle in the traditional sense, and it isn’t going to grow larger the way that your biceps might if you were crushing it at the gym on a regular basis – but reading on a more regular basis is certainly going to compel it to grow stronger, that’s for sure.
A 2016 study conducted by researchers at Emory University scheduled regular MRI examinations or a group of individuals that read 30 pages of material every night for nine days and compared them to MRI examinations of control groups that did not read anything over that same stretch of time.
The reader group was found to have heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, the part of the brain most closely associated with language. MRI scans also showed increased brain activity in the motor region of the brain, and participants reported that they felt like they were thinking clearer after they picked up this reading habit.
6. Effortless Stress and Anxiety Relief
It’s hard to imagine an easier way to relax and unwind than slipping into your favorite book and transporting yourself directly into the story, forgetting about “real world” problems and issues that have been plaguing you along the way.
Doctor David Lewis led a research study that found even just six minutes of reading a day can lower overall stress and anxiety levels by 68%, doing a better job at lowering stress and anxiety levels than listening to your favorite music, going outside and taking a nice long walk, or sitting down and having a bit of tea.
7. Improved Empathy and Imagination
It’s almost impossible not to become more empathetic when you are reading fiction that compels you to slide inside the mind of someone else, watching them make life-altering decisions in real-time while getting an opportunity to better understand their thoughts and their motivations.
Reading great fiction gives you an opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of individuals that you never would have come in contact with otherwise, to live out scenarios that you wouldn’t have had an opportunity to experience, and challenges you to put yourself in the shoes of these fictional characters while compelling you to think of what you would have done in the same circumstances.
On top of that, you’ll also find your imagination and your creativity skyrocket when you are reading on a regular and consistent basis.
You’re able to make connections you wouldn’t have made otherwise, you’re able to see things in a way you might not have been able to before, and you’re able to draw from a deeper pool of mental resources and mental models by reading fiction and nonfiction that wouldn’t have existed if you weren’t reading so frequently.
Joining a book club gives you ample opportunity to increase the amount of reading you do a regular basis, but also gives you an opportunity to discuss what you are reading – and hear how other people are interpreting the same material.
There’s a lot of power in joining a book club and the seven benefits we highlighted above only barely begin to scratch the surface!