Reading Matters

As I have likely said before, I was an English major and went on to get my Ph.D. in English. Among the things that tells you, I have read a lot. A LOT. For most of grad school, that reading consisted of novels. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of poetry: I think I need stories and characters to keep me interested. 

After graduate school, I taught for a bit, so my reading often consisted of reading student papers. Once I didn't teach as much, my interests turned toward nonfiction and reading generally in higher education issues. At this point, the rise of blogs and tweets and podcasts and other mobile pieces came about, and my interest turned to those media. 

This New Year's Day though, I resolved to return to my first love, as it were: novels. I resolved to read more in general, but to read more novels specifically. I got myself a Kindle and started to read more before going to sleep, something I really hadn't done since I was a child.

I am sleeping better, but also loving returning to the novel. I feel my brain being more restful and engaged in other pursuits. I also, as strangely as this sounds, feel a bit more engaged with the people around me. It turns out, this isn't just me; as this author states, what you read matters in terms of what it does to your brain. 

Much of what I read on a daily basis is what she terms "light reading": not very deep emotionally, but also simple in terms of syntax and vocabulary. That kind of reading doesn't exercise our brains as much as deep reading--like poetry (what I still will likely avoid) and literary fiction. Deep reading not only helps us write and think better, but it also likely makes us better people, as "reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective theory of mind (understanding others’ emotions) and cognitive theory of mind (understanding others’ thinking and state of being) compared with reading nonfiction, popular fiction, or nothing at all."

So, I would encourage you to take a bit of time away from your tweets, blogs, snapchats, and everything like them, and pick up a good novel. If you need any recommendations, just let me know.