Reading is ubiquitous in life: Whether it’s to learn or understand something at work, to identify the right item at the grocery store, or to simply unwind at home, we regularly find ourselves reading many times throughout the day. But intentionally escaping to the pages of a great book can help improve our personal and professional well-being.
What the Research Tells Us
Not only is reading a fun leisure activity, it also comes with a number of health benefits. Researchers have found that reading books may be associated with:
- Reduced stress
- Improved concentration
- Better sleep
Reading is also a form of therapy known as bibliotherapy, which is the use of reading material or texts to help solve problems or provide psychiatric therapy. Bibliotherapy can be practiced in many forms, including creative bibliotherapy, which is the practice of reading fiction for restorative reasons.
ONS Members Share What’s On Their Shelves
February is National Library Lovers Month, and what better time to check out a new read? In honor of the occasion, ONS members shared some of their favorites to inspire your next trip to the library.
ONS member Suzanne M. Mahon, DNS, RN, AOCN®, AGN-BC, FAAN, a professor emerita from the division of hematology and oncology in the department of internal medicine at Saint Louis University in Missouri, said she loves all books but highly recommended Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, the true story of the Black women who helped America win the space race, for its depiction of strong women and focus on science, which holds personal sentiment for her.
“I like books that are about strong women,” Mahon said. “Also, my father was an engineer on the Gemini and Mercury projects, and he always spoke to how important the teamwork was. It took way more than one person to make the missions successful. He would have liked this book.”
Anne Ireland, DNP, RN, AOCN®, CENP, a clinical sales representative for ONS, recommended two books, both of which affected her life in meaningful ways. In The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the author outlines a proposal for reconciling hatreds and marked a shift in religious coexistence.
“Sacks argues that we must do more than search for values common to all faiths; we must also reframe the way we see our differences,” Ireland said.
Her second recommendation, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, centers around a young girl named Lily who befriends her father’s housekeeper. The unlikely duo sets off on an adventure that ends at the home of a trio of eccentric beekeeping Black women in 1964 South Carolina.
“Lily’s odyssey into the world of bees and their ‘secret life’ are universal and everlasting,” Ireland explained. “This was Sue Monk Kidd’s debut book and catapulted her career as an incredible storyteller. This book has inspired me to dream of becoming a beekeeper in my retirement!”
Milagros R. Elia, MA, APRN, ANP-BC, founder of M. Elia Nature-Based Healthcare Solutions in Shrub Oak, NY, also discovered the significant power reading can have on a person after reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, one of her favorites.
“I picked it up randomly right before changing trajectories in my personal life and career,” Elia said. “I was in a place of wondering if I was making the right decisions. This book helped me through that feeling of uncertainty. There have been other books as well I could mention, but this one really stands out.”
Ruth Gholz, RN, MSN, an oncology consultant and volunteer in Cincinnati, OH, found Mad Honey by Jodi Piccoult and Jennifer Boylan, a twist-turning mystery thriller, to be a special, heartfelt read.
“This book caught me by surprise!” Gholz said. “The drama of nature, reality, change, and acceptance was very thought provoking. It provides an opportunity to see two sides of very controversial issues, including abuse, teenage love, self-knowledge, and parenting. We are not to judge, and we must be present.”
Classic books have stood the test of time for a reason, Maryellen Potts, PhD, an education assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing in Kansas City, said. Potts has been captivated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, finding fascination in the historic setting and in the many themes of the late 19th-century gothic novel.
“You'd be amazed at all the technology and scientific or medical interventions that occur hand-in-hand with home and folk remedies regarding disease prevention and blood loss,” said Potts. “It's fascinating to see technology from the late 1800s as well as concepts of love, marriage, friendship, and the tension between nationalism versus alien contagion, and illness versus health, including mental health.”
Sue Childress, RN, MN, a retired nurse from Salt Lake City, UT, recommended The Overstory by Richard Powers. She said that she enjoys books that have the power to give her a new outlook on a topic, and this one shared how the life and life span of trees affects humanity.
“I love how the book starts out with nine different characters and how their stories are drawn together by a relationship with trees,” Childress said. “The book covers themes of time, psychology, interdependence, and consciousness. I appreciate a book that has me thinking about it long after I finish the last page.”
Childress also participates in book clubs—another form of bibliotherapy—which she said enrich her life by giving her a chance to explore new reads and find new perspectives.
“I've been affiliated with book clubs for many years,” Childress said. “Both clubs I’m currently a member of read a wide variety of books, which encourages me to read books I wouldn't normally think of and hear other people’s perspectives on books. Reading is a great escape from my busy life, a way I can force myself to slow down and relax before going to sleep at night.”
Find even more recommendations—and add your own!—on the ONS Communities.