Why You Should Skip The 'Beach Reads' On Vacation This Summer

Indulge in some academic journals or critically acclaimed fiction instead.
Light reading is great, as long as you're not trying to become a better writer.
Ioannis Tsotras 2014
Light reading is great, as long as you're not trying to become a better writer.

Easy, breezy novels like quick-moving romances and action-packed mystery stories are a publishing staple of summer, a popular pick for vacationers in the mood for a little light reading.

But you might be better off skipping the beach read this summer in favor of something a little more substantive, according to a recent paper published in the International Journal of Business Administration.

Researchers queried 65 MBA students between the ages of 23 and 42 on what they read most frequently, then compared the students’ writing skills with their reading habits.

The students who read academic journals, literary fiction and nonfiction tended to be more sophisticated writers than those who read mystery, science fiction, fantasy, or did all of their reading via online-only news sources, like BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post.

Writers who were exposed to more complicated syntax tended to incorporate some of that complexity into their own writing.

“If you spend all your time reading Reddit, your writing is going to go to hell in a handcart,” study author Yellowlees Douglas, an associate professor at the University of Florida, told the Boston Globe. “You should be very choosy — and highly conscious of the impact — of what you read.”

And according to the study authors, poorly written textbooks may be the worst example of all: “Ironically, the reading fodder we supply most frequently to our students may more closely resemble the simplified sentences our students also read on BuzzFeed and Tumblr than the sentences they would encounter in, say, The Big Short,” the study authors wrote.

Of course, that’s not to say you should ditch reading altogether if you’d rather relax by the pool with Nora Roberts than the New Yorker. Reading, even the lighter stuff, is linked to myriad health benefits including better sleep, decreased stress, and, if you enjoy fiction, a more developed sense of empathy.

Although the study was small, it’s a good reminder that reaching for denser or more challenging fiction this summer could pay off come fall. Or maybe it’s the perfect time to start that feminist book club you’ve been talking about.

Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered:

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