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Top 10 Ideas for New Reading Material for Brain Health and Mental Fitness

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Updated June 15, 2007

Reading is a great pastime and your brain will thank you for the challenge of learning something new. By learning novel concepts and ideas in reading, your brain will start to make connections and see these concepts in everyday life. For example, read a book on architecture and you will look at buildings differently.

1. Biography

Biography can give a whole new perspective not only on the historical events that encompass the subject's life, but also on how people think and react to the events around them. Too often we hear about famous people through the media and forget that behind all the glamour and politics there are real people with fears, ambitions, hopes and dreams. Choose someone who interests you and read a biography -- you'll never think of them the same way again.

2. History

History is utterly fascinating. Choose an era that appeals to you and dive in. Your brain will get a work out remembering events, people and times. You will start to see links. Some of the most interesting history books trace a single idea, product or trend. Learn how salt shaped nations, how disease and illness ended empires, and how cultures interrelate.

3. Foreign Authors

Reading foreign authors can give insight into other cultures and places. When books are written for other people and languages, you can learn more.

4. Poetry

Poetry is one of the most underrated types of reading. Poems really challenge the brain by engaging in symbols, allegory and unclear meanings. Pick up an anthology of poems and choose one poem per day. Spend some time on the poem, read it out loud, and let your brain wrap around the words, meanings and intentions of the poet.

5. Classics

The classics are fantastic, some of the best writing in the world. Pick up Dickens and get a double treat -- insight into historical England and depth of character. The classics may feel dense at first, but after the first few pages, you'll adapt to the writing and be drawn into a different time and way of speaking. Work your brain out by reading older language and longer sentences.

6. Science

Science books are fantastic. There are lots of science journalists putting out books that explain concepts and ideas well. Science is really a story about a phenomena. Pick a topic -- astronomy, physics, chemistry -- and find a book that looks good. You'll soon be an expert.

7. How Tos

Learn how to build a boat, even if you aren't planning on making one. Find out how to cook meals you'll never prepare. Get the scoop on how to survive in the wilderness. There are hundreds of fun-to-read and interesting how to books out there. Just pick one and learn everything you can. Your brain will be challenged by visualizing the project, imagining how you would do it and all the steps involved in planning it.

8. Art, Fashion, and Design

These books are often the most expensive, but the library has beautiful art books from different periods. Browse through the wonderful pictures in these books. Train your brain to understand different themes, images, and trends in architecture or fashion (for example). Soon you'll see the influences in the buildings around you or on the clothes people wear. Teach your brain a new way to look at things.

9. Travel

Travel books are often funny, informative and detailed. Check out a few about places that interest you and read up on them. Plan a trip that you may never take. Plan out all the details -- hotel, restaurants, sites. Make detailed itineraries and budgets. Your brain will be challenged by scheduling, prices and the details of culture and history.

10. Religion and Culture

We hear about religions and places on the news and have opinions of them, but know little. Pick up a book on Islam and develop an understanding of one of the world's largest religions. Or try Buddhist, Judaism or Catholicism. Learn about the cultures of Central America, East Africa or Southeast Asia. Find out details about life in India or China.

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