One of the questions I am most frequently asked is whether there is a right or wrong thing to read: whether it is better to read on paper than on a screen or if we should all be reading the classics instead of contemporary fiction. However, at a time when a third of us don't read for pleasure, prescriptive ideas of what or how we should be reading can do more harm than good.
Most of us who are regular readers know that books can be calming and relaxing, providing a companion through life's ups and downs and opening the door to new worlds. But there is evidence that reading for pleasure can have huge benefits for our health and wellbeing, too. Reading has been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of depression and in the risk of developing dementia in later life, while people who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.
Our recent research report shows that you are most likely to experience these benefits when you choose to read in your spare time, and enjoy doing so. So give yourself permission to dislike a book as well as to love it, to put it down after a few chapters as well as read it to the end. Whether it's a romance or a graphic novel, a paperback or an e-book, what matters is that you enjoy it and that you can read it in a way that works for you. I normally persevere with a book until the 100th page and stop reading if it hasn't grabbed me by then.
So how do you find the right book for you? If you would like to encourage someone in your life to get back into books, or even start reading again yourself, try browsing libraries and bookshops for inspiration. Scan their carefully curated displays or speak to the experienced staff who will be able to recommend something that's right for you and relevant to your interests.
If you struggle to fit books into a busy schedule, try reading a little each day. Treat it like your 5 a day or your 20 minutes of exercise - something good for your mind, your wellbeing, your health and your confidence. Start with a little, often and you'll find it easier to fit it into your routine.
It can also help to read with others. Find out what events and activities are on at your local library. Consider setting up a reading group at your workplace, or if there's a book you'd like to read, encourage a friend to read it too so you can spur each other on and discuss it afterwards. Reading as a family also works well; parents and carers are the most important reading role models for children and young people. Inspire your children to read more by showing them that you are working it into your day and inviting them to read along with you.
Finally, once you find a book that you love, pass it on. World Book Night (23 April) is a chance to celebrate reading and get books into the hands of people who don't read for pleasure. If you're already a keen reader, recommend a great book to someone you know who doesn't read for pleasure, in person or via social media using #WorldBookNight.