Remember that big stack of novels your high school English teacher wanted you to read? You might—or might not—have actually plowed through all those pages.

But either way, there’s a new twist on reading that you should take note of as an adult.

In a nod to English teachers everywhere, we now know that joining a social group, such as a book club, can be good for your health!

Book club members live longer, according to research published in BMJ Open. Yes, really. It’s not that readers are necessarily healthier than nonreaders…but getting together to talk about books appears to provide health-promoting effects that are comparable to those of regular exercise.

Surprising finding: When Australian researchers analyzed the habits of more than 400 adults who were transitioning into retirement, they found that those who attended two social groups—such as book clubs and church groups—had a 2% risk of dying over the six-year study period. When participants gave up one group, the risk rose to 5%…and to 12% if they gave up both groups.

Combining friendship with reading and other mental activities is a win-win because it lowers stress, increases serotonin (a “feel-good” brain chemical) and may even promote the growth of new brain cells.

“Companionship and intellectual stimulation—and thinking quickly during book club discussions—all of these things are very healthy,” explains Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

So why not give it a try?

To find a book club in your area, check with your local library and/or websites such as MeetUp.com or ReadersCircle.org.

And for some excellent book titles to suggest to your new book club, click here for 12 great options—everything from a Vietnam era page-turner about a teenage runaway to a US Supreme Court justice’s autobiography about growing up in a housing project.

Happy reading!