The list project helped me discover books and authors I grew to adore, as well as books and authors I really didn't like at all. Good or bad, I read many more literary novels than I ever would have if left to my own devices. The funny thing to me now is that I spent my teen years reading books with primarily adult characters, and now that I am an adult, I spend most of my time reading Young Adult novels.
Everyone's experience reading novels is different. Scientists now agree, however, that there are real, scientifically-proven benefits of reading "literary fiction." That is, not "popular" best-seller series, but the stuff that stands the test of time (age of intended audience--adult, child, or young adult--is irrelevant). According to the study, reading literary fiction improves social competency by making the reader more empathetic and perceptive of other people. The New York Times recently wrote about this study in their Health & Science section. An excerpt:
The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.
“This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”