5 Reasons You Should Make Time to Read Fiction (Especially Harry Potter)

In true Hermione Granger bookworm fashion, I grew up reading as many books as I could get my hands on. I didn’t consider a summer complete unless I had checked off a long list of “to read” books. But, as schedules got busier and lazy summer days became nonexistent, I watched reading for pleasure take a backseat in my life. If you’ve also found this to be the case, here are some reasons to reconsider your schedule and think about adding some fiction (particularly some Harry Potter) back into your busy days:
1. You could get a better sense of your own personality

Are you a dedicated Gryffindor or a die-hard Ravenclaw? Your allegiance to your Hogwarts house may be more than just a quiz you take on J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore site. In fact, a recent study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that people’s identification with their houses in Harry Potter reflected their actual personality traits. For example, those who were sorted by Pottermore into Slytherin (described by Rowling as “cunning folks [who] use any means to achieve their ends”) scored higher on personality traits like narcissism and psychopathy. The authors of the paper suggest that the Hogwarts houses, and fiction more generally, can help people understand themselves and identify groups compatible with their personalities.

2. You could feel more like you belong (at Hogwarts)

Relatedly, humans have an intrinsic desire to affiliate with other people and to feel like they belong to groups, and reading fiction may help satisfy this need. For example, a study published in Psychological Science found that people who read Harry Potter psychologically “became” (or identified with) wizards, whereas those who read the Twilight series identified as vampires. Moreover, the more people felt like they belonged to those groups, the bigger increases they showed in measures of life satisfaction and positive mood. That is, reading fiction may help you feel like you symbolically belong to a fictional group from the book, and doing so can help you feel happier.

3. You could be more like Hermione Granger

Think about your favorite fictional characters. Do you wish you could be more like your fictional hero? Whether you want to be like Elizabeth Bennet, Sherlock Holmes, or Albus Dumbledore, reading about these characters may be causing that to happen. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that reading fiction can cause people to change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to be more like the fictional characters they read about.

4. You could get better at reading other people’s emotions

Not only can reading can change your behavior, but it can do so for the better. A study published in Science found that those who read literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction, non-fiction, or nothing) were better able to infer the mental and emotional states of other people. This ability to accurately “read” other people’s thoughts and feelings, referred to as Theory of Mind, is key for having empathy for others and maintaining social relationships. So, reading can help build up this critical skill for social interactions, which may also help you be a more empathetic person.

5. You could become a more tolerant person

Given that they offer many lessons about tolerance, prejudice, and love, the Harry Potter books may be one particular literary series with great potential to influence people’s empathy and compassion. Indeed, researchers have found that reading Harry Potter can improve people’s attitudes towards stigmatized groups, such as immigrants, gay and lesbian individuals, and refugees. Interestingly, these positive effects held true across a wide variety of ages (from elementary- through college-aged students), suggesting that Harry Potter is not only a fun read for all ages, but it may be an important one as well.