Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and I have not backed all points by heavy research (although they might be, I don’t really know).
I grew up reading a lot of books. My parents read to me before I could read myself, and later I read a lot of books myself. I believe that reading helped me a lot through school; writing essays and texts always came easy to me.
After the early school years, I became “too busy” to read books. There was “important” gaming to be done, friends to hang with, girls to be chased. I think that might have been a bad move (not doing those things, just the stop reading part), because my writing got a lot worse. Even still, I am struggling a lot writing this blog post right now (and I am reading a lot more these days).
I think that reading is extremely important for a lot of reasons. It’s of course great reading practice (duh), but it's also very important for writing, and not only for essays and such. Gathering your thoughts and putting them into well-written sentences is truly an art. It is SO difficult. But isn’t that what programming is a lot about too? Expressing yourself in a written form? Well written and clean code is very important for developers, because of maintainability, testability and so on.
Clean code reads like well-written prose.
Grady Booch, author of Object-Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications
Literacy is the most basic part of programming. We write and we read code. We write and read. So why don’t we focus more on reading and writing? OK, so I guess we do practice reading and writing when we work with code, but why stop there? Why not get even better than we ever could by just reading code?
When I am talking about books here, I am mostly thinking about non-technical books (fiction, self-help, non-fiction). You should most certainly read technical books, but they won't necessarily provide all the same benefits that I talk about in this post.
These are 6 benefits I believe that reading books provides for programmers.
1. You’ll Get Better at Reading
When you read a lot, you will also get better at it. You will pick up your pace and get through text a lot quicker (while still acquiring the information). You will also get better at understanding the information quicker and better when practicing reading (see also reason #3).
2. You’ll Get Better at Writing
I touched on this already, but I find that writing is very tightly coupled with reading. Of course, writing is the best practice for writing, but reading is a great way to push your literacy even further. You will learn new ways to express yourself properly, and that is key when you are a developer.
More on writing for Software Engineers on this great blog post: Software engineers should write by Shubhro Saha
3. You’ll Keep Your Mind Sharp
You’ll think a lot while reading. You have to keep parts of what you have read in memory, and recall information while reading. It’s a great way to do some real word brain-training.
4. You’ll Acquire Knowledge
You’ll learn new concepts and ideas that will help you form a more nuanced look on the world. New knowledge can be used to tackle different situations in a better way. More knowledge is ALWAYS helpful for anyone. This alone is for me enough to pick up a book.
5. You’ll Reduce Stress
Reading is entertainment that you can consume while you are sitting relaxed in a comfortable chair or in the corner of your couch. You’ll block out the world for a time, and that is exactly what your brain needs once in a while to get a break from its usual stress. It’s also a lot better than watching a movie, since you get more out of it than just relaxing (see all other reasons).
6. You’ll Get More Creative
This is sort of linked to reason #4, but it’s so important for programmers to broaden their view. You’ll learn new things that you can use in your life. When you read, you also have to envision in your mind the things that are being described. That is creativity right there. There more you do it, the better you get at it (just like everything else). Creativity is a helpful while writing code, because it will let your mind explore new options more easily.
Further Reading About Why Reading Is Great