Nobody is going to challenge the power and importance of reading in our modern society built of texts and images. However, while chasing after productivity and profits, the benefits of reading fiction (as opposed to non-fiction) are often neglected. We perceive reading only as a practical tool for acquiring knowledge but not as much as a joyful process valuable on its own. 

Here are several inspiring TED talks about books and reading fiction that will change your ideas about reading fiction for adults. If you believe fiction is a waste of time and you’d rather choose non-fiction or self-help books, check one of these videos. You’ll learn that you might be missing out on crucial benefits of reading fiction, such as empathy and imagination.

It’s also helpful to return to these videos whenever you’re in doubt. Will you be wasting your time if you choose a novel over a new online course in microeconomics in your free time. (Spoiler: of course, you won’t. Reading fiction is no waste of time).

The benefits of reading fiction

Rita Carter on Why Reading Matters (14 minutes)

Rita Carter on the pleasures and benefits of reading

At the core of it all is a crucial distinction between pragmatic reading and reading for pleasure. You perform the first type of reading when studying, working, browsing Twitter, and choosing which yogurt to buy. Reading for fun — that is, reading fiction — is an entirely different activity when you’re inside another person’s mind. 

Rita Carter reveals to us how fiction teaches us empathy, among many other things. It is a superb exercise for our brains, even when you read “for fun” and do not get any type of “useful” information about streamlining your morning routine. 

Essentially, this TED talk will bring the value back to reading for pleasure that is often neglected in our hyper-productivity age.

“There is this one thing you could all do which would make you more imaginative, make your memory better, probably improve your personal relationships, and make you a nicer person.” 

And it’s reading.

Elif Shafak on The Politics of Fiction (20 mins)

Elif Shafak stands for the freedom of imagination

Elif Shafak brings her personal story to the table. Herself an acclaimed author, she unwraps what kind of power the stories have on our minds and worlds. It’s all about freedom — freedom of imagination. 

“In the end, stories move like whirling dervishes, drawing circles beyond circles. They connect all humanity, regardless of identity politics, and that is the good news. “

Tomas Elemans on The Inspiring Truth in Fiction (8 mins)

Books reveal the complexity of the world, argues Tomas Elemans

Fast access to news and millions of headlines has made us immune to the feelings of others. We rarely empathize with people who feature in these news reports, tells Tomas Elemans. We, more often than not, just make a mental note about the event and scroll further. 

This is all happening alongside the rising popularity of non-fiction. We desire to control our lives, make them more productive and understandable. But the world is much more complex than just hitting onto secrets of productivity. 

The cure for this is in reading fiction. By doing so, we learn how to empathize with other humans. We become better at comprehending and accepting the complexity of the world around us. We also understand that there’re no ready-made answers for intrinsically important questions.

Michelle Kuo on The Healing Power of Reading (18 mins)

Michelle Kuo on how reading can change our lives

It is an intimate story about reading — that is, an individual and a shared experience — and how it can change lives. Just click play and discover yourself!

Want more TED talks about books and the benefits of reading? Check out this blog post.

Why should you read and how to read fast?

Jordan Harry – How to Read a Book a Day (10 min)

Practical tips on how to read faster

One of the main reasons you put books aside is that reading takes up too much time. Jordan Harry has an answer to that — speed-reading. Although he suffered from a speech impediment as a child, now he reads 7 times faster than an average reader!

Jordan Harry shares a very valuable guide on how to become a fast reader by avoiding three common reading habits that hold our reading speed back. There is a lot of practical tips in this TED talk! By implementing at least some of them, you’ll easily start reading faster — and reading more! 

Learning how to read fast doesn’t mean skipping on passages or not going too deep into a book. Jordan Harry shares tips on how to boost your reading comprehension. His advice is definitely suitable for pragmatic reading and leveling up your learning from textbook routines!

“It’s important to distinguish between reading for a need and reading for enjoyment.” 

However, think twice before applying this excellent skill to reading fiction. You read for pleasure, for the moment you spend with the book and its characters. Do you really want to speed this process up? 

TED-Ed’s “Why should you read…” 

TED-Ed produced a marvelous series “Why should you read…” These short animated videos will unravel the most important fiction books and impactful authors before you. It’s a great way to explore the world of fiction and replenish your collection. Moreover, you might consider rereading classics from your childhood — like Charles Dickens — from a new angle.

What to do with old books

TED has answers even to this question! If you have a bunch of old books you don’t want to keep in your home library, you can sell them, reread, recycle, give them away. These are the options available basically to anyone. But is there anything else?

Brian Dettmer on Old Books Reborn As Intricate Art (6 mins)

This is what one can do with old books

Brian Dettmer’s artworks will open to you a new dimension of what one can achieve with an old book. He turns old books into art — a mesmerizing process of transformation. The artist approaches old books, foremost, as a multidimensional material whose structure can be remixed and reconsidered. This TED talk shows you not only breathtaking book sculptures but also feeds you with a few essential thoughts on the future of books. 

Of course, not everybody is an artist. So, consider selling your books for money — BookScouter helps you find a suitable vendor who’d like to buy this or that book from you. You can also buy books on BookScouter — it aids you in getting educational materials as well as fiction books much cheaper!