“Ask your doctor if reading is right for you.”

A few years ago, I started developing a slight tremor. It didn’t bother me, except when I signed books or the rare occasion I had to write a check. I thought it was just from drinking too much caffeine, so I decided to live with it. (I could retire from a lot of other foods, but I couldn’t live without my caffeine.) When my doctor noticed the tremor, he recommended I see a neurologist. He wanted to make sure that something serious didn’t cause it.

The neurologist examined me and gave me an EEG and an MRI. The good news: Everything in my brain is fine. I have no signs of stroke, tumors, shrinkage, or zombie bites. I can control the tremor through medication, and we picked out a good option. He also said I have some slight age-related cognitive decline, which is affecting my short-term memory. He said that I can combat this through brain-stimulating activities, including crossword puzzles and reading.

Yes, my doctor prescribed reading.

I already do a lot of reading, but it’s usually for work. With my busy schedule, I don’t dedicate enough time for quiet reading. (And I have a growing TBR pile that isn’t happy about it, including some reviews I promised people I’d do.) Over my health journey that I’ve been on for the past two years, I’ve had to dedicate time for other healthy activities. I had to enforce my sleep schedule, set aside 30–40 minutes each day for the elliptical, and make time for meal planning and prep. I can make time for reading too.

Reading helps the brain several ways. It also stimulates the imagination and expands your knowledge. And reading material is easy to come by. You can find it at your local bookstore or for free at your public library.

Like all medication, reading has side effects. Reading may expose you to ideas that challenge your prejudices. You may develop empathy for people who are different from you. You may experience discomfort when facing truths you’ve been trying to avoid. Don’t read while operating a motor vehicle. (Seriously. When I was in high school, I once rode with a classmate who was studying his science textbook, which he propped up on the steering wheel, while he was driving. I had to ask him to put the textbook away. Fortunately, we now have audiobooks.)

Reading is crucial for a healthy mind, just as exercise and proper nutrition are necessary for a healthy body. I’m planning to make quiet reading time a part of my routine. Make it a part of yours as well.