Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Brain Candy, Beach Reading (Plus a Giveaway!)

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

I used to consider one of my favorite pleasures in life a luxury. Losing myself in a good novel has always felt like candy for my brain. Now, studies have proven scientifically that reading is more like a brain multivitamin, and antidepressant, not just brain candy. In addition to increasing vocabulary, improving writing, staving off dementia and reducing stress, the most exciting outcome of reading discovered in all these studies, for me, is the discovery that reading literary fiction increases empathy and emotional intelligence.

The study was published in the journal Science, and its findings have been summarized in numerous articles, including these from the Scientific American and The New York Times. Five different experiments were done, each showing a direct causal relationship between reading literary fiction (versus nonfiction or popular fiction) and increased empathy among study participants. And another recent study by Emory University found that the effects on the brain of reading a novel can last over five days.

Reading, therefore, makes us all better people, in more ways than one. Reading is not only good for us as individuals, but good for  everyone around us as well. We not only become more knowledgeable, more capable, healthier and less stressed when we read, but we can also become more sensitive to the emotions of the people around us when we indulge in a good book.

So, in honor of the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation, I offer a giveaway and some recommendations for reading on your next physical or mental vacation. First, the giveaway: A hardcover copy of Illuminations by Mary Sharratt, a gripping historical fiction novel on the life of Hildegard of Bingen. One lucky blog reader will receive a free copy of this book. To enter the drawing, share the name and author of your own "brain candy" recommendation in the comments below by July 4th, 2014. You can also gain an entry by subscribing to this blog via email. I can only ship the book to a US address.

For more brain candy book recommendations, visit my "Brain Candy" category in my Amazon astore. I'll continue to add recommendations as I remember them. Please share your recommendations in the comments below, and happy, healthy reading!