I Love to Read: A Method of Promoting Well-Being

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In my gap year, I read a lot of books. I’m talking well over 100 books. For me, reading is a creative outlet.

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Ashley Tuin, Creighton University School of Medicine, Class of 2026

Reading allows me to escape, relax and simply enjoy stories. I can read about characters who live different lives than me. I can read about friendships and relationships that look different from mine. I can explore a character’s emotional journey at the touch of my fingertips. I didn’t want to lose one of the hobbies that makes me happy when I started medical school, so regardless of how busy or stressful my day is, I read every single night before I go to sleep. And every single night, I fall asleep feeling a bit calmer and more like myself.

“I love to read” was never my top choice of fun facts when introducing myself to my new classmates; I was worried they would judge me – not only for how much I love to read, but also for the genres of books that I read. I love fiction and romance and anything that allows my mind to escape the realities of daily life. But occasionally, I would feel a sense of guilt that I wasn’t reading books that would “make me a better person”, such as books about medicine, healthcare, or self-improvement. I was reading books about fictional worlds and happy endings.

One day, I finally realized that fictional books and books with happy endings are ok! I would never judge someone else for the books they read, so why should I judge myself? Studies have shown that reading non-medical literature, such as fiction, is associated with reduced stress and increased empathy in health science students and decreased burnout among physicians.1-4 Given how much reading has added to my life and my happiness, I’m not surprised to hear the benefits of non-medical literature for those in medicine. Who wouldn’t want to be more empathetic and less stressed?

As the days went by in my first year, I shared a bit more of myself and my love of reading with others. I was shocked at how many of my classmates also loved to read and had continued the hobby while in medical school. As our community of readers grew larger, the self-placed shame became smaller and smaller.

After months of debating with myself, I finally decided I was ready; I wanted to start a book club for women in our class. I wasn’t exactly confident about this decision because it required me to really put myself out there. I’m far from an extrovert and worried about what others would think, but I was also excited about the prospect and what it could do for others, so much that I couldn’t wait any longer. I recruited a friend of mine, and we started the club together. Our book club has now been up and running for over a year!

What started with just the two of us has grown to 35 amazing women in the past year. For many of us, it’s the highlight of our month and permanently marked on our social calendars. We’ve created a sanctuary where we connect with each other beyond the practice of learning medicine. We’ve created a space where people are free to share a part of themselves without fear of judgement, which has resulted in many unexpected and otherwise unexplored friendships. One of the most exciting parts of book club is hearing the thoughts and opinions of others. We all read the same book, but we may have processed it differently. This reminds me a lot of what it’s like interacting with patients: each physician-patient relationship is unique, centered on a mutual understanding and desire to connect with one another.  Perhaps this is why non-medical literature and book clubs increase empathy in physicians.

We recently celebrated the end of our M2 year with a class party, which excitingly included superlatives. Not shockingly, mine was ‘the biggest bookworm.’  I have fully embraced this hobby and am grateful to have found others in my class who have done the same.

My advice for those who haven’t read since high school lit class is find a genre that inspires you and simply start reading. For my fellow book lovers, be bold in your love for reading and continue to reap the benefits of losing yourself in a story.

Ashley Tuin is a second-year medical student at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska. She is passionate about wellness, especially throughout medical training. When she’s not studying, she’s reading, watching sports, or trying to beat her husband in pickleball.


1. Chiaet J. Novel finding: Reading literary fiction improves empathy. Scientific American. February 20, 2024. Accessed April 4, 2024. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy/.

2. Marchalik D, Rodriguez A, Namath A, et al. The impact of non-medical reading on clinician burnout: A national survey of palliative care providers. Annals of Palliative Medicine. July 8, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2024. https://apm.amegroups.org/article/view/26974.

3. The importance of leisure reading to health sciences students: Results of a survey - watson - 2016 - Health Information & Libraries Journal - Wiley Online Library. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/hir.12129.

4. Rizzolo D, Zipp GP, Stiskal D, Simpkins S. Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC). Accessed April 4, 2024. https://www.clutejournals.com/index.php/TLC/article/view/1117.

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The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.