Reading: It Doesn’t not do a Body Good

September 24, 2008 at 6:01 am 17 comments

Welcome guest blogger Michelle Buonfiglio, host of Romance B(u)y the Book and super reader.

Michelle Buonfiglio

Michelle Buonfiglio

Ask readers why they’re addicted to the written word and you’ll often get the same answer my fellow writers offer when asked “why write”:  We simply can’t not do it.  Awkwardly phrased, that one, but easily understood.  Similarly understood by the word-obsessed is the idea that reading is good for us.  But can we really say for certain why?

Back in February, the “Why is reading good for you?” thread posted at TheStudentRoom.co.uk garnered some interesting answers from young people.  Some were the ones one might expect.  Reading, they said…

“Can lead to a wider outlook on life, increased general knowledge, greater imagination.”
Improves or increases vocabulary.”

“Suggests good spelling and grammar usage.”  Commenters also stated some benefits of reading I hadn’t thought of…

”It gives you somewhere to store your bookmarks.”

“Gives you something to do when you have no life.”

Ouch.  I’ll admit I had thought of that one, as well as this one, especially when dealing with “literary types” who aren’t romance fans…

“[Reading] allows you to condescend to anyone who hasn’t read the same books as you.”

Finally, this comment reminds me a lot of what women who read romance often say about their choice in fiction…

“I read ideas/views on human nature/behaviour that I have thought before but never heard anyone speak about or never ventured to mention myself. It has the effect of making me feel a little less weird.”

That a person can zip around the Internet and find a universality of reasons for appreciation of reading is kind of amazing.  But does that prove reading is good for us?

Well, readers remark all the time – and I whole-heartedly-and-bodily agree — that reading romance feels good.  Is that feeling quantifiable?  I’d like to think so.  First, researchers have found that smiling – which we do often while reading romance — releases into the body serotonin and endorphins, the so-called “Happiness Hormones.”

Next, most readers I know say their bodies feel good when they read romance.  And just about everybody agrees that sexual arousal and expression do a body good.
Finally, what brings a smile to one’s face more easily than a little sexual arousal mixed with Happily Ever After (HEA)?

There you have it.  Reading romance is good for you!  So, um, don’t not do it.
Michelle Buonfiglio hosts Romance: B(u)y the Book at Lifetime Television’s myLifetime.com. http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/entertainment/romance-buy-the-book/blog She’s captain of the UYS TEAM RBTB.  Michelle is a kidney transplant recipient who reads only HEAs — because life is too short and too precious to invite negative karma.

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Entry filed under: reading.

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17 Comments

  • 1. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 24, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Michelle–
    You are exactly right. Reading does feel good.

    Is there anything like a paperback and a hot bath?

  • 2. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 24, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Well, Teresa, maybe two paperbacks and a bag of cheesepuffs. But that’s just me. TMI?

    This past weekend, I did a massive re-read fest that I call “The Couch to Nowhere,” (C2N) because I didn’t leave the reclining position for a couple days. And I laughed at myself — not so unusual — when I noticed some smudge of some food product on one of the pages, and tried to figure out what I’d been eating when I’d last read that favorite. Again I say, TMI???

  • 3. amy*skf  |  September 24, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    It can open the doors to friendship, a discovered love of the same author, genre, over the top alpha male vampire zombie slayer–you never know what you have in common. I met Michelle in the library through our love of romances.

    If that wasn’t good for me, I don’t know what was.

  • 4. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 24, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I feel the same way, Amy. I was thinking of that in the quote above, “it can make you feel less weird.” Of course, after having met me, you probably felt there might be something wrong with you, what with our having stuff in common…

    I’ve loved reading since I was a child; it was an escape and refuge. But reading romance changed my life as an adult and a woman, especially because I’d found books that spoke to me and other women who loved the things I do.

  • 5. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    I’m with you MIchelle–reading romance is special.

    I never read a romance before 1999. At that point one of my friends read a story I’d written and told me I should be writing romance novels. Huh? I’d never read a romance novel in my life.

    My friend had the double-stuffed shelves so common to romance readers and she shared a few of her favorites with me. It only took me a few books before I realized this was the genre for me. I am addicted to HEA.

    Throw in a sexy hero and a heroine I can relate too and I’m in reader paradise!

  • 6. Princess Bumblebee  |  September 24, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Hey, this is great, Michelle! And great for the reading world. Yes, there’s nothing better than the couch and a romance novel! Except the couch, romance novel, your kitty, and CHOCOLATE! YUM.
    Yes, romance lets us escape into a world where there’s a handsome man and a heroine you can relate to, and, of course, the HEA. You know it’s gonna come. And you feel good and you’re smiling, there’s those silly little endorfins, and suddenly, your problems seem less ..problematic..and life is great!
    That’s why I love to read. Hey, there are benefits galore, but, bottom line, the HEA!

  • 7. Princess Bumblebee  |  September 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    OH, yeah, and to make you feel less weird. HMMM…what a wonderful place, huh?
    Oh, Teresa, great story! Break open the bobka. Romance-writer-who-had-never-read-romance. Interesting. Welcome to the club! And we definately love those heros, hehe.

  • 8. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 25, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Thanks for stopping by, principessa! I could hear you and other readers tell your story of why you read romance and how it makes you feel a thousand time and not tire of it! Good work adding the kitty!

  • 9. Marilyn AKA The Playground Monitor  |  September 25, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    After I graduated from college I swore I’d never read again. Then ater a few years, the DH and I were living in Europe and his job required lots and lots of travel. So to while away the hours, I discovered the Army base library and a guy named Stephen King. After “The Shining” kept me awake all night (and not in a good way) I gave him up for Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon.

    Then along came the kiddos and I was busy reading “Goodnight Moon” and “Pat the Bunny.”

    I discovered romance novels a few years ago and it rekindled a long-abandoned dream of writing. I’ve met so many wonderful women through RWA, including the very lovely and gracious Michelle, and my dream is beginning to come true. I sold my 26th short story recently.

    But I still read and love the feeling of hope that comes with a happily ever after ending to a book. It keeps me believing in the goodness of people and that love truly can conquer all. Of course, now that I’m a grandmother, I’m back to “Goodnight Moon” and “Pat the Bunny.” But as soon as she’s old enough, she’s getting the autographed copy of “The Princess Diaries” I got for her when Meg Cabot spoke at RWA. And when she’s even older, I’ll loan her some of my favorite romances and hook another generation on HEA.

  • 10. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Ah–Good Night Moon.

    That brings back memories. If anyone ever doubts to power of words they should think about how many lives have been touched by that simple book.

  • 11. MorganO  |  September 25, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Reading is like breathing air. Necessary for life! I’ve been readig as long as I can remember, and usually day dreaming about my version of the story. I guess you could say that led to my turning to writing off and on over the years. The last time I turned on, 4 years ago, I never got turned off!

    But first and foremost, I’m a reader. It makes me feel good, makes the ugly part of the world disappear for a bit, and I get to see things in a whole new way or learn something. Reading time is never wasted time. Especially when you read on the computer and knit at the same time!

  • 12. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing that, Marilyn! And congrats on selling another short story. I wonder if most folks realize how difficult it is to “write short?” Wonderful news, and I know we’ve all really enjoyed traveling along with you on your journey. And being turned on to those category romances you’re so fond of. 🙂

    MorganO, when I’ve praised e-books for their ability to allow one to read hands-free, I wasn”t really thinking knitting… I love how you share that you fantasized your own take on the story. That may be the difference between folks who love reading, and those who do it because they have to — the idea that we can manipulate the story in our minds after we’ve read it, make it our own as we keep it for years to come, as it affects our lives, or changes them. It’d be cool if there were a way to turn kids on to that aspect of it. Silly me, of course there’s a way, I’m just not an educator.

  • 13. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 25, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Teresa, you’re not kidding. Glad Marilyn brought it up. do you know, I never realized the mouse was in every picture til my daughter was about 5, and I’d been reading it to my son and her for about 7 years at that point. ugh. But it also was cool to learn that from her. I always remember Bill Clinton wistfully talking about the passage of time marked by the last time he got to read Goodnight, Moon to Chelsea. 🙂

  • 14. Santa  |  September 26, 2008 at 12:08 am

    ‘Reading is Fundamental’ was the catch phrase of my youth. Those ads for RIF were everywhere and I wholehartedly believed them. I still do today. I, too, am a relative newbie to reading romance but it’s also what I cut my reading teeth on. ‘Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sednik, anyone? The perfect HEA in that book to return after his adventures to the four walls of his room and to find his supper ‘still hot’. Nothing better, friends.

    And that’s why I read romance. Life, as short as it is, can be a trial at times and I am the ultimate escape artist. Romances, MGM musicals, romantic comedies. Bring ’em on. It takes a great deal of talent to craft the gems of my heart and these authors, screen writers and such have my respect.

    I also happen to think the romance writing and reading community is like no other. It is a tight knit community that welcomes everyone and anyone. It comes together to support causes such as this and so many others. In essence, the romance community is its own HEA.

    Ciao for now!

  • 15. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 26, 2008 at 1:32 am

    You’re right. The romance writing and reading community is fantastic!

    I’m not sure exactly what the cause and effect is–all those HEAs make us happier, more positive people or happier more positive people enjoy the HEA.

    I suspect that it works both ways to some extent. And it is great when we can bring all that positive energy together to make a difference for the rest of the world.

    Thanks to everyone for your support!

  • 16. Michelle Buonfiglio  |  September 29, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Buongiorno, Everyone!

    Thanks for stopping in to comment at my guest blog and, grazie mille, Teresa, for hosting me today. This event is marvelous and you’ve worked so hard organizing it. Please extend mine and the Bellas’ appreciation to the UYS team for a job well done.

    Santa, RIF and the Sendak! What great memories! I didn’t realize you were a relative newbie to romance as I am also. Isn’t it amazing how once you get hooked, you can’t help but immerse yourself? And I agree about the community. The women I’ve met online and IRL through romance have changed my life. I feel so lucky! Thanks for stopping to say hi!

  • 17. A Pacesetter Reader « Unleash Your Story: Make a Difference  |  February 20, 2009 at 3:49 am

    […] B(u)y the Book has graciously agreed to serve. She takes her reading seriously–see her post on the subject during our 2008 […]


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