Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Science May Help Oasis?

As someone who reads a lot, I always pay attention to what the news has to say about the latest developments in the study of reading.  Three recent stories caught my attention and I think it is pretty clear how one of these stories is all the evidence you would ever need to see to support the other two.

The magazine Science just published a study which claims that reading literary fiction improves one's theory of mind. From the editor's summary in Science:

Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one's own beliefs and desires. The currently predominant view is that literary fiction—often described as narratives that focus on in-depth portrayals of subjects' inner feelings and thoughts—can be linked to theory of mind processes, especially those that are involved in the understanding or simulation of the affective characteristics of the subjects. Kidd and Castano (p. 377, published online 3 October) provide experimental evidence that reading passages of literary fiction, in comparison to nonfiction or popular fiction, does indeed enhance the reader's performance on theory of mind tasks.

I think that makes a lot of sense and I am glad that there is some evidence to support it.

And the journal PLOS ONE published something very similar:

How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation

From the PLOS ONE abstract:

The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader. Based on transportation theory, it was predicted that when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic. Two experiments showed that empathy was influenced over a period of one week for people who read a fictional story, but only when they were emotionally transported into the story. No transportation led to lower empathy in both studies, while study 1 showed that high transportation led to higher empathy among fiction readers. These effects were not found for people in the control condition where people read non-fiction. The study showed that fiction influences empathy of the reader, but only under the condition of low or high emotional transportation into the story.

So, two serious studies which contend that perhaps reading fiction makes you a better person - or perhaps better able to relate and understand other people - which, I would argue, helps you to be a better person.  Most readers probably love to read whether or not it is good for them so explaining the benefits of reading is for the most part preaching to the choir.


I was reading the Guardian the other day and I saw this headline:

(Ask yourself: who are the angriest pop musicians around?  I bet he's in the top three of every list.) He goes on at length about how he hates reading stuff that isn't true and it occurred to me, that if there ever is a person who could benefit from spending more time reading fiction, its him.  (Note:  He has created a lot of great music and some of the anger and rage he feels has been put to some good use musically.  But still, I think at this point in his career, he could do with some reading therapy.  Especially since what he claims about reading fiction is now proving to be scientifically unsound.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Books!

After not buying many books this summer (spent the time reading books I already own), somehow a giant stack of (mostly) new books has appeared.

I was punished by the universe for not ordering the winner of the Booker Prize when it came out in the UK (not that I knew this was going to be the winner, but I knew I wanted to read it well before it won) and as a result my new American copy of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, ordered the day after it was published in the US, is a second edition.  That is not fair.  (But I am very happy for her that her book is already in a second printing here.)  But as these things have a way of evening out, I found for $4.00 an autographed first American edition of the 1987 winner of the Booker Prize, Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger.

New hardcover first editions from the UK:  Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe, The Deaths by Mark Lawson, and Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright.  I did not order Denise Mina's new book when it came out this summer and have been duly punished and got a 3rd or 4th printing of The Red Road. Ugh.

New hardcover first editions from the USA: The Facades by Eric Lundgren, &Sons by David Gilbert, and Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

And some other bargain priced first edition American hardcovers: When the Women Come Out to Dance and Tishomingo Blues, both by Elmore Leonard.  And Heart of the Hunter by the very interesting South African crime writer Deon Meyer.

And the weirdest new addition - a large print, ex-library edition of a collection of Michael Gilbert short stories, The Mathematics of Murder.  In terms of bad editions of books, condensed editions are the worst, next is large print, then I guess book club editions, then maybe ex-library editions, then maybe anything not a first edition.  Many of the copies available of this Gilbert book were very expensive and because of the government shutdown and threat of default, I made a panicked decision and opted for this inexpensive large print edition of The Mathematics of Murder.  This book is from the Sefton Public Libraries - Birkdale Library Southport.  Which is in or around Liverpool.  Checked out at least 21 times from June 2005 through July 2010.  I hate looking at it but when I am reading it, after a while I sort of forget how large the print it.