Before you read on further, I’d like to ask you, the reader, to honestly answer a question for me. There is no right or wrong answer; simply think back to what you’ve done in the past few months and try to recall:
What are the titles of the last five books you’ve read?

If you were able to successfully recall your recent reading history, congratulations! If you were not, do not fret; you are in the majority.

Since the rise of digital media in the early 2000s, teen consumption of traditional media has steadily plummeted. The Gen Z population has become restricted to reading short texts and Instagram captions, and as a result, are missing out on critical thinking skills development present in reading books and other literary works. That is not to say the Internet is to blame for our generation’s seemingly compromised literacy abilities; but that we should spend greater efforts in encouraging habitual readings.

But you may ask, why is reading so important? Books, whether in hardcover or digital form, allow the reader to mull over complex, thought-provoking concepts over longer periods of time. Compared to a short online article or a 4-minute youtube video designed to hook the viewer with clickbait titles, books ask for the reader’s patience and skills of reflection to fully understand them.

In other words, literary works make you think. The human’s greatest advantage as a species is the ability to think at a higher, more critical level than the rest of the animal kingdom. Thoughts turn into ideas, ideas turn into creations, creations turn into a better standard of living, and the cycle repeats. In fact, in order for scientists and researchers to discover innovations, they often consult papers carried out by their fellow peers and predecessors, to gather knowledge and think of new ideas.

By consistently reading well-written works, not only do you expand your breadth and depth of knowledge, you also learn how to think and make connections to solve problems in creative, efficient ways. Problem-solving is not an innate gift or to be acquired by statically studying; it is an art form that requires gathering different perspectives and educating yourself on a wide variety of topics. In addition, reading formal texts can improve your own writing skills and allow you to effectively communicate with others in any setting, which is one of the most sought after skills of the 21st century workforce.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get reading!

1). Nonfiction
Nonfiction novels often get a bad reputation for being boring, textbook-esque written hemorrhages of information. However, they can be written in an engaging way that both entertains and strengthens the mind’s ability to retain information and make connections. Critical thinking, which in turn leads to greater problem-solving skills, stems from learning how people discovered new information and developed new theories, and the best way to do just that is to explore nonfiction texts of different fields of study. Personally, I discovered my passion for psychology through exploring books related to the topic, and have found it to be a helpful conversation opening at various events too.

2). Autobiographies
In some ways, autobiographies are like mentors. Their authors are some of the greatest, kindest, brightest, best minds, generously divulging their life lessons and valuable advice in an open manner. I remember reading my first autobiography, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life written by Chris Hadfield, and thinking that it was the single greatest book I’ve ever read as a 12 year old. While it painted an exciting adventure as an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Mr. Hadfield described the challenges he encountered and how he overcame them with the experiences he’d had as both a citizen on planet Earth and an astronaut flying thousands of miles away from home. These life lessons are applicable to everyone and serve equally as a fun read and a source of inspiration.

3). News (beware of media sensationalization)
Reading the news, published by a wide variety of unbiased, credible sources, nurtures a deep understanding of fields of study like politics and finance in a way that no non-fiction can ever achieve. By exposing yourself to real-world occurrences of political and financial turmoil, you will come across not just facts, but a wide range of opinion articles that will gradually influence you to develop your own method of independent thinking. It is key to understanding diverse cultural differences when speaking to an ethnically different individual, as well as engaging in conversations with your peers and even industry leaders to demonstrate a clear knowledge of how the world runs. In short, it will contribute to your well-roundedness and resourcefulness, two necessities when entering the rapidly changing workforce.

The above categories are just three out of the infinitely niche genres of texts that ask the reader to engage in critical thinking for themselves. By regularly reading and thinking, you can become a brilliant writer, conversationalist, and most importantly, a well-rounded individual equipped with the knowledge and the skills to problem-solve in a rapidly changing world.