Science Says Literary Novels are Good for You

There was a nice opinion piece (“Read Kids, Read”) by Frank Bruni in the NYT back in mid-May. In a lot of ways, it was preaching to the converted—passing it on here is a bit more of the same. We intuitively know that reading improves us—and reading good writing all the more so. So what was interesting to me about the article is that it points to studies that actually measure some of the ways reading improves us—particularly literary fiction.

“…[S]everal studies have suggested that people who read fiction, reveling in its analysis of character and motivation, are more adept at reading people, too: at sizing up the social whirl around them. They’re more empathetic. God knows we need that.”

The Scientific American article Bruni links to above is also worth a look. It notes that people who read literary fiction rather than nothing, non-fiction or popular fiction had improved test scores when it came to inferring and understandings others’ thoughts and emotions. And the explanation about the way in which popular fiction functions differently that literary fiction is pretty interesting.

(Side note: The literary novel used in the study was Harper’s The Round House by Louise Erdrich. So if you’ve been wanting to read it, now you know it’s good for you, too. 🙂  )

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