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There are so many things you learn when you read, whether you are reading fiction or non-fiction, fantasy, historical, romance, sci-fi, or biography.
Here are nine things I’ve learned about while reading.

1. Places

By reading, you can discover new places you have never been and may never have the chance to physically visit.
Sure… we could just read travel books to discover things about other cities and countries. Or, we could read novels set in those places we are intrigued by. If you want to go to Florence, try reading E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View.
Some books describe the setting so well that you feel you are actually seeing the sights. Others choose setting but leave it slightly more generic so that you can almost place the story in a city or house that is familiar to you.

2. Culture

By reading, you can discover cultures different from your own.
Reading Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden gave me an experience of an aspect of Japanese culture. Khaled Hosseini’s novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are on my must-read list, simply because I want to explore his exploration of aspects of Afghani culture.

3. History

Khaled Hosseini’s novels also delve into a history that is barely touched on in the Canadian school system, and thus allow readers to learn about a history that has affected, and continues to affect them.
How many novels have you looked at that mention some aspect of some kind of history? Political histories, wars, inventions, revolutions, unsolved crimes. These are the building blocks of novels.
Reading can also give you an experience of what life may have been like during different periods of history.

  • What was life like before electricity?
  • What was life like for a farmer and his family during the Gold Rush?
  • What was life like for a single woman of high class, or one of low class, in Victorian England?

Up to this point, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about fiction. There are a plethora of non-fiction books out there dealing with histories of places, events, and life in general.

4. People

Reading biographies, on top of the histories just mentioned, will allow you to discover, and heck, let’s call it “meet” people you may never cross paths with in real life.
Reading fiction also allows you to discover new people, new kinds of people. Do you know what I mean?
We all tend to live in specific circles. We usually stay where we are comfortable, among people fairly like ourselves. The streets you live on, the friends you make, the restaurants you go to, the people you date – they usually have a fairly similar set of characteristics.
By reading, we can meet people we would never eat dinner with. Murderers, politicians and world leaders, hard-boiled SEALS turned police detectives, Victorian maids and their advantageous-marriage-seeking mothers, outlaws, creatures like centaurs and fawns.
You never know who you might meet.

5. Language

I love to discover a new word! I constantly put a book down to pick up my iPhone and use my dictionary app.
I enjoy discovering how languages interact.
Have you ever read a book and found crossovers between your language and other languages, where words seem to have obviously similar roots, or realized that a word you’ve been using is not actually an English word at all?
Reading also allows us to discover the way different people speak. Language changes over time, by place, and by economic-status. Discover it!

6. Problem Solving

Reading teaches us problem-solving.
We get to discover how other people solve their problems.
We don’t always intend to, but we often carry what we read into our lives. And experiencing a problem with someone, and going with them as they solve or overcome it, we may discover we can use similar tactics in our own lives.

7. What You Enjoy

Do you enjoy short stories? Do you enjoy novels? Historical novels? Crime or mystery novels? Romances? Thrillers?
Or do you enjoy non-fiction reads more? Business books? Psychology? Books on sports or athletes? Biographies? Self-help? Religious or faith-based books?
Do you enjoy formal language? Or a conversational tone? Or comedy?
Hard-cover or paper-back or e-Reader?
You will never discover what you enjoy reading until you read. If you start a book and don’t enjoy it, put it down and start a different one! No author expects all readers to enjoy their work, and no author is hurt if you put their book down in favour of someone else’s.

8. What You Don’t Enjoy

By trying different kinds of books, you’ll discover what you don’t enjoy. You’ll discover topics you think strange or unsettling and ideas you don’t agree with. You’ll discover characters you don’t like.
That’s okay!
And it’s part of the fun.

9. Activities You Might Enjoy

And lastly, by reading you may discover activities you might enjoy.
You might enjoy

  • bungee jumping
  • a trip to Beijing
  • learning French
  • researching about 1920s fashion
  • learning about Stalin and his regime
  • discovering the author your friend mentioned at lunch yesterday
  •  the movie based on the book you just finished.

Reading is all about discovery.
What have you discovered while reading?