I read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas this summer on my Kobo. The e-reader took the physical weight off my hands and allowed me to absorb the mental weight by the hour. I loved it. I do enjoy classic fiction (I’m a huge Dickens fan) but this book stuck me hard with the complexity of the diabolical plot and Dumas’ ability to draw such wonderfully unique characters.
It turns out that I was engaging in some social therapy as I lounged in the sunshine.
In a recent New York Times article, Pam Belluck discusses a study published in the Journal of Science that found a direct correlation between reading literary fiction and good social skills. It’s not the first study to have reached the conclusion that the development of empathy and sensitivity can be enhanced by reading, but this one compares literary fiction with nonfiction and popular novels.
“…after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.
“…The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.
“…The study’s authors and other academic psychologists said such findings should be considered by educators designing curriculums, particularly the Common Core standards adopted by most states, which assign students more nonfiction.” For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov
“Cut apart these bookmarks and slip into books on display or on shelves, leaving them peeking out of the top of the pages or to attract attention to new books or books of specific genres. A black and white version is also available in my photostream.”
Her Creative Commons license only asks that they not be used for commercial purposes, that you give the artist credit, and that if you modify it, you share your work with the same generosity.
(I wonder if these generous people who share their work so freely read more literary fiction – empathy and sensitivity at work, wouldn’t you say?)