What A Book Should Be

A book should be an axe to chop open the frozen sea inside us.

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This post is for One Liner Wednesday, hosted by Linda G. Hill.  (The quote is from Summertime, a novel by South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee)


The many benefits of book reading are well known – vocabulary, reasoning, writing skills, mental acumen. But one of the most important is the nurture of empathy, especially if the person in question is a heavy-duty reader.

Keith Oatley, a  cognitive psychologist at the University of Toronto, a novelist and the author of a study looking at the psychological effects of fiction, says we are all familiar with the stereotype of a bookworm.

“An image leaps automatically to mind: that of a nebbish and unfashionable individual, wearing spectacles, whose demeanour is largely characterized by the social awkwardness one might expect from someone who has chosen the company of print over peers.”

But his study showed that engaging with stories about other people can improve empathy and theory of mind. In other words, “people who read more were better at empathy and understanding others,” Oatley said.

 

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