The fictional worlds we engage with can change how we think about politics and how we justify our political beliefs. According to a study published in the Cambridge University Press people who read dystopian fiction are more likely to support extreme political reactions to things. The point? Read something that is good for you, go read some classic literature and try to avoid overly-dystopian worlds (or at least read them knowing the impact they may have on you).
Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.
If you want to understand current anxieties about the future then all you need to do is turn to science-fiction, and historically this has been true. Sci-Fi isn’t a way to predict the future but it is a way to understand what we think about the current state of humanity. Unsurprisingly, there is so much stress about the climate crisis that enough writers have created a new subgenre called climate fiction. Cli-Fi captures the anxiety we’re collectively experiencing about the environment while also being a useful teaching tool.
Atwood has become a major figure across the cli-fi literary universe. She not only helped the term catch on when she tweeted it in 2012, but her 2013 novel MaddAddam has been a popular teaching tool which largely summarizes the need for the genre in the first place. The book tells the story of a group of environmentalists, known as the gardeners, who rebuild the world after a global pandemic. The novel shows how fragile our global systems are. “People need such stories, because however dark, a darkness with voices in it is better than a silent void,” Atwood writes. The book was part of the curriculum for a course on cli-fi at Brandeis University in 2015.
Another notable book in the genre is Omar El-Akkad’s The American War. The book was listed as required reading in a 2018 freshman-level course entitled “Narrating Climate Change” at New York University. The 2017 novel is set in America’s second civil war when southern states defy a law that outlaws the use of fossil fuels. The book is told through the lens of Sarat Chestnutt, who is from Louisiana and is displaced by the rising waters of the Mississippi River. El-Akkad shows the life of an American climate refugee.
It’s easy to fall out of the habit of reading books because of the endless entertainment options we access through our phones. This year you ought to put down your phone and pick up a book. Yes, you can read and you can read a lot! Over at Inc they compiled a quick list of reasons why reading books are good for you.
Reading fiction can help you be more open-minded and creative.
According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, study participants who read short story fiction experienced far less need for “cognitive closure” compared with counterparts who read non-fiction essays. Essentially, they tested as more open-minded, compared with the readers of essays. “Although nonfiction reading allows students to learn the subject matter, it may not always help them in thinking about it,” the authors write. “A physician may have an encyclopedic knowledge of his or her subject, but this may not prevent the physician from seizing and freezing on a diagnosis, when additional symptoms point to a different malady.”
It turns out that by simply using your local library you can improve your life – no matter what you read. As long as you make use of what the library provides you can find your well-being increased. What are you waiting for?
How do you quantify a public good? Library supporters have struggled with this problem for a long time, as public libraries are often the first institutions up on a budget-slasher’s chopping block. But a recent study from the London School of Economics bolsters the value of libraries in a major way. By translating well-being gained from visits to the library into dollars, the study’s authors conclude that a year of library visits is equivalent to a little more than a $2,200 raise.
“There’s always room for one more self-help book” said every publisher ever. On the other hand, there are too many books and not enough time to read them all (especially if you read self-help books). Having never read one, I was interested in what all the fuss is about then I saw Forbes’ article on the core tenets of the genre.
Save yourself some time and check out this short list of seven things to think about.
7. Human needs: Accept your inherent irrationality and learn to fight it.
Human beings are neither robots nor computers – and as it turns out, we’re not even all that rational. Many great self-help books put forth the idea of a divided inner self: In Carrots and Sticks, they’re Homer Simpson and Mr. Spock. In Predictably Irrational, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The inner elephant and its rider represent the two selves in Switch, and in Thinking, Fast and Slow, the scientific terms System 1 and System 2 are used. While your rational side might be able to make a decision about what’s best for you, such as quitting cigarettes, eating healthier, or abstaining from social media, the impetuous irrational self who favors short-term gratification – smokes, booze, and endless hours on facebook – can derail you. To combat your inner Homer, set up disincentives for irrational behavior. The example that Carrots and Sticks offers is the following: if you promise to give 1,000 dollars to Scientology for every cigarette you smoke, you give Mr. Spock (Rational System 2), far more power than if the only motivation is a fleeting New Year’s resolution.