Research has shown that just 30 minutes of reading a week can boost our health and wellbeing.
From aiding sleep to reducing feelings of loneliness, reading for pleasure can even help build confidence and improve our emotional intelligence.
Following World Book Day in March we talked to award-winning, Nottingham-based author Mhairi (pronounced Vah-Ree) McFarlane - whose debut novel You Had Me At Hello became HarperCollins’ best-selling e-Book, and her follow-up, Here’s Looking At You, became a Sunday Times Bestseller - to get her opinions on the benefits of reading and the influence of social media on writing today.
“There are lots of benefits of reading fiction – too many to list in an easy Q&A fashion! Novels allow you to time travel, to live lives you've never led, to find out how much in common you have with other people and explore their differences as well.
“Our attention spans have more competing claims on them now. I once sat directly behind a girl on a train reading my book and every so often, she put it down to look at her phone (as I would've done, I am a total phone addict) but every time it was like a dagger to this author's heart!
“I don't feel I can write a contemporary romance without honouring the fact we all use the internet and interact on it constantly.
“Personally, I see this as a great thing, there are so many new outlets for human nonsense in our online lives and that equals new material. I think mobile phones will hit thriller writers a lot harder because now you can't isolate people or strand victims in quite the same way. But it's fiction - you're still in charge, accidentally have your hero drop that iPhone 7 down a handily placed well...
Mhairi moved to Nottingham aged 12 and has always been destined for a career in crafting words.
“I've always been writing one way or another; even as a kid I wrote stories, I wrote The Adventures of Snaily Snail when I was six or seven. My career began as a reporter, then a feature writer for the Nottingham Post.
“It was a combination of feature writing not quite cutting it for me anymore and my love for romantic comedies that inspired me to start writing books.”
Although Mhairi is an international best seller she’s still coming to terms with just how successful she’s been.
“I hadn't expected either success or failure, just for You Had Me At Hello to do OK. So to have my editor calling me up saying 'You are selling tons' was a complete shock and a dream come true. Also I was skint and it was incredibly nice not to be skint anymore!
“To this day, when I see a novel of mine in the shops it feels unreal and like there’s been a mistake - the day I got the box of proof copies was magical.
That's the only word for it. And I am doing my absolute dream job, I know how lucky I am."
So, what’s next in the pipeline?
“I'd love to do a screenplay one day but, in all honesty, a book a year is enough for now. My fifth book Don't You Forget About Me is out now and I'm writing two more!”
For more information about Mhairi McFarlane visit www.mhairimcfarlane.com