March 20, 2017

"A life spent reading--that is a good life," Annie Dillard

 Reading-After-Lunch
Reading After Lunch by Sarah Bryant, British painter.

Can Reading Make You Happier?  by Ceridwen Dovey  in The New Yorker.  The answer is YES.

In response to the question “What is preoccupying you at the moment?,” I was surprised by what I wanted to confess: I am worried about having no spiritual resources to shore myself up against the inevitable future grief of losing somebody I love, I wrote. I’m not religious, and I don’t particularly want to be, but I’d like to read more about other people’s reflections on coming to some sort of early, weird form of faith in a “higher being” as an emotional survival tactic.
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In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself.
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For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain...A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants, showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves.
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So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

Read the whole thing to learn about the rise of bibliotherapy, that is prescribing reading for its therapeutic effect.

 Reading Conversation-Past-Lives

Comfort Food: The Importance of Reading Aloud as Adults by Annie Hartnett

When I was in the third grade, my neighbor, Mrs. Cris — a 60-year-old woman with grown children — invited me and two other girls to form a weekly reading club. On Wednesdays, Mrs. Cris would serve us buttery Danish cookies, and juice in fancy punch glasses. We would sit on the floor while Mrs. Cris settled into the high-backed chair in front of the fireplace, and she would read out loud to us.

We would lie about it to other kids, what we did on Wednesdays. It wasn’t because I was ashamed, it never occurred to me that a reading club might be considered uncool. I lied because I didn’t want my other friends to be envious, and because I didn’t want anyone else to be added to the club. It was our secret, my favorite day of the week.
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The Reading Club taught me the importance of careful, concentrated listening, and taught me that I could find friends outside my immediate peer group. It taught me reading a story aloud is a way to take care of someone, a kind of care-taking that isn’t overbearing or smothering, and doesn’t feel like babysitting. As adults, reading aloud to one another is something we think we might have grown out of, but that’s only because we’ve forgotten how intimate and cozy it is to be read to, or to read aloud to someone who listens. It’s a simple, low-maintenance way to connect. And if you can tell a good story, I now believe, you can win anyone over, even the most skeptical of listeners. Especially if you serve cookies.

And don't forget the rich pleasure of listening to audio books and becoming deeply immersed in stories that surround you. 

 Stories Surround 1

I've a huge fan of audiobooks for decades, first on cassettes, then CDs and now on MP3s that I download to my iPod.
I've been a great reader all my life, but there were some books I just could not get into, like J.R,Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.  So, one day I ordered The Fellowship of the Ring narrated by Rob Inglis and was completely entranced. I loved them and have become, at last, a J.R.Tolkien fan.

Certain books are immeasurably enriched by a good narrator.  I can't imagine the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin series, beginning with Master and Commander without hearing the delightful voice of Patrick Tull.  Graham Greene's The End of the Affair as narrated by Colin Firth, A Town Like Alice narrated by Neil Hunt, A Gentleman in Moscow as narrated by Nicolas Guy Smith, Wolf Hall as narrated by Simon Slater, The Likeness as narrated by Heather O'Neill and Brideshead Revisited as narrated by Jeremy Irons.  This past year I discovered to my great delight Adrian McKinty and his Sean Duffy mysteries set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  All, beginning with The Cold Cold Ground are narrated by the splendid Gerard Doyle   

Posted by Jill Fallon at March 20, 2017 3:16 PM | Permalink