Tag Archives | reading

The Physicality of Reality

Maria Elena (CC BY 2.0)

Maria Elena (CC BY 2.0)

via The Bismarck Tribune:

There’s an interesting article in the current issue of New Scientist about the impact of digital technology on the way we read and write in the 21st century (http://bit.ly/10FgQJ0).

In essence, the article suggests we’re not comprehending much of what we read or write, in part because we have too many visual distractions offered by digital devices in their efforts to help enhance and extend what we’re reading and writing.

In other words, the digital world today is more about reach and less about substance.

It’s more about volumes of data and less about nuggets of knowledge.

It’s more about aggregating and less about synthesizing.

It’s about the triumph of quantity over quality.

This ties in with something I’ve written about often in this column.

I love the digital revolution. I like the fact that the Internet has given me access to multimedia materials that, even a decade ago, were beyond my reach.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Why You Should Avoid Best-Selling Books

As duas irmãs - Renoir“If you read what everyone else reads, soon you’ll start thinking like everyone else,” claims Shane Parrish, relating his tale of reading 161 books in a year at The Week:

We all know we should read more. Few of us do.

Well, last year I made reading a priority and ended up reading 161 books cover-to-cover. I reasoned that if reading was the key to getting smarter, I wouldn’t let anything get in my way.

What I learned most from my year of reading surprised me because it wasn’t found in any particular bit of knowledge in any of the books I read. The big lesson was a simple heuristic: Avoid most best-selling books. These books are not fertile ground for learning and acquiring knowledge. In fact, most are forgotten within a year or two. Why learn something that expires so quickly?

Well let’s start with this question: Why do we read best-sellers in the first place?

Read the rest
Continue Reading

No, The Internet Is Not Ruining Your Ability to Read Deeply

PIC: PD

PIC: PD

The Guardian’s Steven Poole turns a critical eye to an alarmist piece that claimed the internet was damaging our ability to digest challenging literature. (An unusual claim given the number of litbloggers online, but I digress…)

Via The Guardian:

As it happens, I value deep reading – and so, perhaps, do you. And so, quite obviously, do all the youngish people I see everyday on London transport reading 700-page printed books such as the Game of Thrones series, 50 Shades of Grey or the new Donna Tartt. Stuart Jeffries has written persuasively about the popularity of such doorstops, as well as complex modern TV series. This might be a culture not of attention deficit but of “a wealth of attention focused more readily on the things that warrant it”.

Of course the internet can be distracting – you’re reading this, after all. It’s true that skimming is tempting, that being overwhelmed with information is in some quarters worn perversely as a badge of pride; and that the request to express the “take-away” (or, as some say, the “tl;dr”) of a lengthy piece of writing bespeaks a philistine data-age instrumentalism, according to which the only possible function of writing is to transmit bite-sized facts.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Neuroscientist Claims Internet Has Ruined The Way We Read

"No, it's fine. Enjoy reading "Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I'll just stay here and silently judge you."PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

“No, it’s fine. Enjoy reading “Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I’ll just stay here and silently judge you.”PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolfe believes that the human brain has changed in response to to the way that information is presented online, and the changes aren’t entirely positive. Wolfe presents her initial problems enjoy Herman Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game as a consequence of these brain changes.

I’m not so sure, myself. I wonder if she has considered that her reading tastes may have changed for other reasons, or maybe that The Glass Bead Game just isn’t her cup of tea? I read a ton of Herman Hesse in high school and college, but haven’t visited his work in a couple of decades. I’m not sure I’d enjoy any of it now, but I don’t believe the internet is to blame. Then again, I guess it might make a convenient excuse for why I can’t get through Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow or James Joyce’s Ulysses in spite of numerous attempts to do so.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Reading Changes Your Brain

Concentrating (3460165669)I highly doubt that reading this post will do too much to you, but new research shows that reading novels definitely does change your brain with lingering effects. Carol Clark-Emory reports for Futurity:

After reading a novel, actual changes linger in the brain, at least for a few days, report researchers.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, appear in the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Mike Tyson Has Better Taste In Books Than You Do

Picture: Octal (CC)

Picture: Octal (CC)

Mike Tyson isn’t just a former champion heavyweight boxer, he’s also a heavyweight reader, too. What are some of the books on Tyson’s nightstand right now? Napoleon’s letters to Josephine, a little Kierkegaard, and more than a few volumes devoted to Alexander the Great.

Via Open Culture:

I read everything about Alexander, so I downloaded “Alexander the Great: The Macedonian Who Conquered the World” by Sean Patrick. Everyone thinks Alexander was this giant, but he was really a runt. “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity,” he said. I so related to that, coming from Brownsville, Brooklyn.

What did I have to look forward to—going in and out of prison, maybe getting shot and killed, or just a life of scuffling around like a common thief? Alexander, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, even a cold pimp like Iceberg Slim—they were all mama’s boys.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

West Virginia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Science Fiction In High School

solarisThe goal is to spur interest in math and science, and encourage kids to ponder the benefits and drawbacks of emerging technologies in their own lives. Via Blastr, a fantastic antidote to the efforts of politicians to mandate religious content in classrooms:

A Republican legislator in West Virginia is proposing a bill that would require the State Board of Education to integrate science fiction literature into middle-school and high-school reading curricula. Delegate Ray Canterbury hopes that even if the bill doesn’t pass it will pressure the Board of Education to adopt science fiction on its own.

“I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers,” Canterbury said. Canterbury cites Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne as early influences in his own youth that lead him to earn a degree in mathematics.

“In Southern West Virginia, there’s a bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life—this is how things are and they’ll never be any different,” Canterbury says.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Is Less Reading Fiction Making Us Less Empathetic?

Stephenie-Meyer-fans-007The Guardian discusses research on the powerful link between empathy and reading fiction — a novel is a singular experience in terms of being immersed in the interior life of another person, forcing us to undergo events through the protagonist’s eyes and placing us amongst their thoughts. Studies have pointed to a stunting of empathy in young adults over the past few decades — could one reason be the decline of reading of novels for pleasure?

Burying your head in a novel isn’t just a way to escape the world: psychologists are increasingly finding that reading can affect our personalities.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo gave 140 undergraduates passages from either Meyer’s Twilight or JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to read. The study’s authors, Dr. Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young, then applied what they dubbed the Twilight/Harry Potter Narrative Collective Assimilation Scale, which saw the students asked questions designed to measure their identification with the worlds they had been reading about.

Read the rest
Continue Reading