Literary Fiction Enhances Empathy in Readers

Literary fiction, not popular fiction, can make people better understand one another according to a new study. Because literary fiction (i.e. books not for sale at airports) focuses on the psychology and inner life of the characters it gives people a window into the thoughts of others that aren’t covered elsewhere.

On average, people who read parts of more literary books like The Round House by Louise Erdrich did better on those tests than people who read either nothing, read nonfiction or read best-selling popular thrillers like The Sins of the Mother by Danielle Steel.

For example, folks who were assigned to read highbrow literary works did better on a test called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes,” which required them to look at black-and-white photographs of actors’ eyes and decide what emotion the actors were expressing.

This is the first time scientists have demonstrated the short-term effects of reading on people’s social abilities, says Raymond Mar, a psychology researcher at York University in Toronto. He has investigated the effects of reading in the past but did not work on this study.

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Reading for Faster Freedom in Brazil

Prisoners in Brazil may be able to shorten their stay in jail by reading and writing. It’s only 48 days but it can make a difference, the prisoners need to read from a collection of philosophy, science, literature, or the classics then reflect on them in a submitted paper.

Educational programs like this are a good way to help people returning to society restart with more focus and support.

Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and
write an essay which must “make correct use of paragraphs, be
free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing,”
said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.

“A person can leave prison more enlightened and with a
enlarged vision of the world,” said Sao Paulo lawyer Andre
Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisons.

“Without doubt they will leave a better person,” he said.

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A Canadian Bookstore’s G20 Reading List

The arrival of the G8 and G20 later this month to Ontario has a lot of Canadians upset – and those who aren’t are welcome to read some books. Canada’s largest bookstore chain has a display of books to read to learn about the complexities of what the G20 is all about.

It’s a good list of books that you should take a look at. Are there books you’d like to see on the list?

The book chain has created a reading list and series of G20 tables in its stores across Canada to “promote dialogue,” said Bahram Olfati, Chapters’ vice president for adult trade.

“You see people such as Bono talking about giving aid to Africa. We have included the book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, which says this aid isn’t really helping,” said Olfati. “It is one of my favourite books on the tables.”

With subheads such as “Outlaw Literature,” the tables are the product of a series of roundtable discussions among Chapters executives and staff to cover G20 issues from the left, right and centre, said Olfati.

But each store has the leeway to add to the table. And the one Chapters store inside the yellow security perimeter in downtown Toronto for the summit of 20 world leaders this month has decided to include titles by Chomsky, a long-time outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, and a few on Guevara, including Che: A Memoir by Fidel Castro.

Keep reading at The Star.

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