Did you ask yourself, reading this revelation, if that shadow on the brain created any noticeable effect on the reader's daily life? It turns out, there is an effect, and researchers David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano have noticed: People who read a certain kind of book - the kind we tend to like best here at Novel Matters - exhibit heightened powers of empathy, the ability to enter into another person's experience and emotion - not to feel for them, but with them.
But not just any book delivers the potion. You won't find it in non-fiction (surprised?) and you won't find it in every kind of fiction, either. David Comer Kidd observed, "Some writing is what you call 'writerly', you fill in the gaps and participate, and some is 'readerly', and you're entertained. We tend to see 'readerly' more in genre fiction like adventure, romance and thrillers, where the author dictates your experience as a reader. Literary* [writerly] fiction lets you go into a new environment and you have to find your own way."
It makes sense, doesn't it? A relationship with a character that forces you to "find your way" would make good practice for a real human relationship that demands the same. Another researcher, Philip Davies, took it a bit further: "The thing about novels is that they give you a view of an inner world that's not on show. Often what you learn from novels is to be a bit baffled."
None of which will simplify your life. But that may not be the point.
I'll bet you've read some books that have led you into the woods a bit - in a good way. Got any experiences to share? Please do tell. We always love to read what you have to say.
*See that? He used the "L" word.