Science says reading fiction could be good for your health — here's our top 27 reads to get you started

Banu Ibrahim
January 12, 2018

Story highlights

  • Science says reading fiction books could help you become more intelligent.
  • These Pulitzer Prize winning reads are a solid options to add to your reading list.

Thanks to the dominance of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video— which have over 180 million subscribers combined— users can watch their favorite shows on nearly any device. You could say we're living in the Golden Age of Television Programming. And even if that's the case, we'd like to suggest an alternative to your leisurely binge watching: fiction books.

A recent study in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences shows that reading fiction can enhance your emotional intelligence. And a stronger level of emotional intelligence can trickle down to the rest of your life by helping you improve romantic and platonic relationships.

By perusing the pages of Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" ($10.56, amazon.com) or John Updike's "Rabbit, Run" ($13.48; amazon.com), you can get a more nuanced understanding about complicated issues such as racism or poverty. This is thanks to the notion that reading can develop neural networks in the brain that are responsible for processing complex thoughts. And as an added bonus, additional research has shown that those who read the genre test higher for empathy.

So no matter how you like to read, whether it's during your commute or relaxing beachside on vacation, we recommend adding a daily dose of fiction to your routine.

To help start your reading list, we've turned to Pulitzer Prize winners from 1990-2017, but if you want to add nominees and other distinguished titles, Barnes & Noble has the full rundown. As an added bonus, most of these books are on sale.

Browse some of the top reads from the past two decades and get ready to flex your literary muscles. Trust us, your brain will thank you.

Note: The prices ahead reflect the listed retailer's price on the date this article was published.

2017

"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead ($12.33; amazon.com)

2016

"The Sympathizer" by Viet Thanh Nguyen ($6.99; amazon.com)

2015

"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr ($10.70; amazon.com)

2014

"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt ($15.66; amazon.com)

2013

"The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson ($9.74; amazon.com)

2012
No award presented

2011
"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan ($12.85; amazon.com)

2010

"Tinkers" by Paul Harding ($11.37; amazon.com)

2009

"Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout ($8.33; amazon.com)

2008

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz ($10; amazon.com)

2007

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy ($9.77; amazon.com)

2006

"March" by Geraldine Brooks ($11.67; amazon.com)

2005

"Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson ($8.99; amazon.com)

2004

"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones ($7.13; amazon.com)

2003

"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides ($10.99; amazon.com)

2002

"Empire Falls" by Richard Russo ($11.15; amazon.com)

2001

"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon ($11.55;
amazon.com)

2000

"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri ($9.03; amazon.com)

1999

"The Hours" by Michael Cunningham ($10.25; amazon.com)

1998

"American Pastoral" by Philip Roth ($11.52; amazon.com)

1997

"Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer" by Steven Millhauser ($13.41; amazon.com)

1996

"Independence Day" by Richard Ford ($9.48; amazon.com)

1995

"The Stone Diaries" by Carol Shields ($11.37; amazon.com)

1994

"The Shipping News" by E. Annie Proulx ($9.16; amazon.com)

1993

"A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain" by Robert Olen Butler ($11.16; amazon.com)

1992

"A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley ($12.85; amazon.com)

1991

"Rabbit At Rest" by John Updike ($12.83; amazon.com)

1990

"The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" by Oscar Hijuelos ($8.80; amazon.com)

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