Literature helps us read the room

Literature helps us read the room

Are we frustrated of sympathetic with Hamlet's reluctance to avenge his father? When we read literature, we compare the main character's actions to what we'd do in a similar situation.

We develop social sensitivity as we practice our ability to take on another's point of view.

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A study showed that participants who read literature had an increase in blood to the brain areas for processing language and in the regions that had nothing to do with processing language.

For example, if you read about running through a forest, your frontal lobe's motor cortex that coordinate the body's movement lights up in the same way as if you were actually running.

One study demonstrated that the empathy we feel for characters in a novel could make people less racist.

Even children can improve their opinions about stigmatised groups through reading, as proven in another study using the first Harry Potter book in Italy, a country where immigrants are often stigmatised.

Don't just read literature because it's good for you. Read because it's good.

Reading helps us feel, but it also helps us feel better. Books make us feel less isolated.

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Beyond the love and romance, the novels of Jane Austen has a layer of steel and resilience that may inspire us in uncertain times.

Jane Austen's own life was a lesson of perseverance: She published six novels in seven years and died at the age of 41. When she was 25, her rector father retired. Austen, her parents and her sister spent the next eight years travelling between small properties in Bath, relatives' homes and seaside resorts. Much of this life is reflected in her heroines.

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If we think of a book as an individual house, each sentence becomes a tiny part of the house. Some are mostly functional, while others are the details we remember and take away.

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Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy is the practice of encouraging reading for its therapeutic effect.

This first use of this term dates back to 1916 from an article named A Literary Clinic. In the article, the author describes a "bibliopathic institute" where reading recommendations are dispensed. The books must do something to you. They may be a stimulant, sedative, an irritant or a soporific.

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