Use These Reading Material Ideas for Brain Health and Fitness

Keep Your Brain Engaged With a Book

When it comes to keeping your mind youthful and brain healthy, reading is a great pastime for people of all ages. Reading has been found to improve your memory, enhance empathy, increase your brain power. It has also been found to help you be more open-minded and creative. Though one of the keys to longevity is an active lifestyle, rest and relaxation are an important part of that lifestyle. But instead of watching a couple of hours of television at the end of the day, try picking up a book. Your brain will thank you for the challenge of learning something new. Reading has also been linked to

By learning novel concepts and ideas from reading, your brain will start to make connections and see these concepts in everyday life. For example, read a book on architecture and you will look at buildings differently. Whether you're an avid reader who's just stuck in a rut or you're trying to pick up a reading habit, here are some great ideas for good reading material to keep your brain active.


Man reading book on sofa
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Biographies can give you a whole new perspective not only on events that encompass the subject's life but also on how people think and react to the events around them. Too often we hear about famous people through the media or about historical figures through textbooks.

It can be easy to forget that behind all the glamour and politics there are real people with fears, ambitions, hopes, and dreams. Choose someone who interests you and read their biography—you'll likely never think of them the same way again.


Senior woman reading in armchair
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History can be utterly fascinating. Choose an era that appeals to you and dive in. Your brain will get a workout remembering events, people, and times. You will start to see links.

Some of the most interesting history books trace a single idea, product, or trend. Learn how salt shaped nations, how disease and illness ended empires, and how cultures interrelate.

Foreign Authors

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Reading the works of foreign authors can give remarkable insight into other cultures and places. From details like different everyday customs to greater differences like outlook on life or religion, when books are written for other people and languages, you can learn even more if you are willing to open your mind.


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Poetry is one of the most underrated types of reading. Poems really challenge the brain by engaging in symbolism, allegory, and unclear meanings. Pick up an anthology of poems and choose one poem per day. Spend some time on the poem, read it out loud, and let your brain wrap around the words, meanings, and intentions of the poet. Or just enjoy.

Classic Literature

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The classics are classics for a reason. What we consider classic literature contains some of the best writing in the world. Pick up Dickens and get a double treat: insight into historical England and depth of character.

The classics may feel dense at first, but after the first few pages, you'll adapt to the writing and be drawn into a different time and way of speaking. Work your brain out by reading older language and longer sentences.


Elderly Woman in a Deckchair Reading a Book

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Science books are fantastic. There are lots of science journalists putting out books that explain concepts and ideas well. Science is really a story about a phenomena. Pick a topic—astronomy, physics, chemistry—and find a book that looks good. You'll soon be an expert, or at least more educated.

How Tos

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Learn how to build a boat, even if you aren't planning on making one. Find out how to cook meals you'll may never prepare. Get the scoop on how to survive in the wilderness even if you're more of a homebody. There are hundreds of fun-to-read and interesting "how to" books out there. Just pick one and learn everything you can. Your brain will be challenged by visualizing the project, imagining how you would do it, and all the steps involved in planning it. Bonus points if you actually learn the skill and put it to good use!

Art, Fashion, and Design

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These books are often the most expensive, but your local library likely has beautiful art books from different periods you can flip through for free. Browse through the wonderful pictures in these books. Train your brain to understand different themes, images, and trends in architecture or fashion (for example). Soon you'll see the influences in the buildings around you or on the clothes people wear.

Teach your brain a new way to look at things.


Older couple reading travel guide
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Travel books are often funny, informative, and detailed. Check out a few about places that interest you and read up on them. Plan a trip that you may never take. Plan out all the details—hotel, restaurants, sites. Make detailed itineraries and budgets. Your brain will be challenged by scheduling, prices, and the details of culture and history. Or simply enjoy the stories from another person's adventures (and misadventures).

Religion and Culture

Senior woman reading in living room
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We hear about religions and places on the news and have opinions of them, but, in reality, know little. Pick up a book on Islam and develop an understanding of one of the world's largest religions. Or try Buddhism, Judaism, or Catholicism. Learn about the cultures of Central America, East Africa, or Southeast Asia. The more you read, the more you'll learn—and perhaps the better you will appreciate your fellow humans.

1 Source
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  1. Djikic M, Oatley K, Moldoveanu M. Opening the closed mind: the effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal. 2013;25(2):149-154. doi: 10.1080/10400419.2013.783735