Will reading novels help your programming skills?

Reading is evolving everyone, programmers too. Despite recent trends in Polish reading habits, it's worth to read. Nevermind that according to studies by the National Library since the year 2000 we read less and less. 17 years ago the percentage of readers oscillated around 55%. Last year it dropped to 37%. Nonetheless, we should read, in spite of those who don't. But we don't just mean technical handbooks, monographs and science books. Reading novels can also be very helpful in a programming career. Don't believe us? We have some arguments.
 

1. Reading novels helps to relax


In our previous articles, we elaborated on the importance of rest. We wrote that unfortunately, many coders don't know how to use their free time efficiently. By this, we mean adequate rest. Reading novels solves that problem. You don't need to figure out what to do; you just grab a book. A good book is a great stepping stone from everyday programming. Sure, you can watch a movie or play one of many video games, but you will still be staring at a screen, like at work. Reading a good book is like stepping into a different world, focusing on an alternative activity than that performed every day. A novel helps to relax. Also, you can discuss it with family or friends which will improve your social life.
 

2. Reading novels enhances empathy


You can often hear that reading increases one's sensitivity. It also increases empathy, teaches how to see the world from someone else's perspective – author's, characters'. A book makes you care for its characters' problems; you keep your fingers crossed for the protagonists to challenge their enemies. Empathy can be useful in a coder's job. Instinctively, a programmer will focus more on his tasks, because he will want to create something valuable for his client – a product, help with a certain problem, time-saving functionalities, etc. A study conducted by a duo of Dutch scientists, Matthijs Bal and Martijn Veltkamp, confirmed that novels create empathic behaviors in readers. There's only one condition – a book must be interesting.
 

3. Reading novels improves creativity


Books introduce developers to new ideas and thoughts which can become an impulse for personal reflections. The ability to transform ideas in innovative conceptions is perfect for the world of technology; it creates the future. Sci-fi novels play an especially significant role in inspiring new solutions because reading about fiction minimizes your need for closure. The closure, in turn, makes you want to explain all loose ends in the plot by using simple solutions and thereby kills your creativity.
 

4. Reading changes the state of brain


A study on the subject of novels and their impact on the brain showed fascinating results. The object was to monitor the brain using fMRI after everyday reading. Scientists observed growing activity and connection in various parts of the brain. First one is the part responsible for processing language. Such results are expected and very useful in everyday work. When this particular part of the brain is „warmed up” writing emails to clients will become a much easier task and reaching an agreement with your project manager will be less problematic. Another part of the brain activated during reading is responsible for senses and movement which means that in our minds we impersonate characters of a book. The study also confirmed the enhancement of empathy showing an improvement in the theory of mind system. It allows you to conclude another person's state of mind. In English: it will be easier to tell if your coworker's bad idea was caused by tiredness, distraction or lack of knowledge. All these changes showed within five days since last reading. It means you should read novels on a regular basis.
 

5. Reading novels enriches the language


Among many benefits of reading novels, we can't forget about the enrichment of your vocabulary. It's not just about learning new words. Reading improves your speaking habits, expands your knowledge, fastens your thinking processes. The facility of speaking increases your self-esteem and speeds up the development of your career. Additionally, reading in a foreign language helps to learn it more efficiently. Already in the 30s the famous American writer, Napoleon Hill stated in his book „Think and Grow Rich” encouraged to broaden your vocabulary which translated into success in professional and private life. The bigger your vocabulary, the easier it will be to explain your ideas, build relations with coworkers and make contact with new clients.
 

Which of the described skills are not valuable for a programmer? An effective relax means you will go to work rested. Empathy will help you to understand co-workers better. The creativity's role in programming is evident, and a better memory facilitates and speeds up the learning of new issues. Enriched vocabulary and a greater quality of language mean a better communication. Do you still think that reading novels is redundant for a programmer? If not – take a break and grab a book!