Reading novels improves work skills

This comes back now and then and is worth repeating: reading novels is good for your brain, benefitting your interpersonal and work skills.

"According to recent reports featured in Forbes and the Harvard Business Review blog, reading fiction can help you develop highly valued interpersonal skills and increase your emotional intelligence.

Why not just read the latest tome on productivity or how-to best-seller on effective team building strategies? While non-fiction business books offer practical techniques and useful case studies, novels employ a more subtle way of cultivating interpersonal skills.

According to data conducted by cognitive and behavioral researchers, diving into a story triggers neuronal brain activity that helps the reader understand human emotion and ultimately improve his or her emotional intelligence. Even if one has a wide circle of acquaintances, the thought patterns and processes of these individuals are usually private. However, in a novel, a reader is exposed to a character’s innermost thoughts and emotions, yielding insight into how different personality types approach a situation.

Research supports the theory that exposure to characters’ different perspectives and ways of viewing the world can translate into more empathy in relationships, including workplace interactions."

More: http://m.heraldbulletin.com/thb/pm_104136/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Ywui01s8

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Books - the endlessly expanding publishing waistline?

"... because you think if you own publishing you can control what’s printed, what’s written, what’s read? Well, lotsa luck, sir. It’s a common delusion of tyrants. Writers and readers, even as they suffer from it, regard it with amused contempt."

Yet, the corporate publishing industry operates in those exact terms. Books are nothing more than commodity, with bestsellers being the lifeline that sustains the business model.

"The social quality of literature is still visible in the popularity of bestsellers. Publishers get away with making boring, baloney-mill novels into bestsellers via mere P.R. because people need bestsellers. It is not a literary need. It is a social need. We want books everybody is reading (and nobody finishes) so we can talk about them. ...

Moneymaking entities controlled by obscenely rich executives and their anonymous accountants have acquired most previously independent publishing houses with the notion of making quick profit by selling works of art and information. ...

... a “good book” means a high gross and a “good writer” is one whose next book can be guaranteed to sell better than the last one. That there are no such writers is of no matter to the corporationeers, who don’t comprehend fiction even if they run their lives by it. Their interest in books is self-interest...

And not only profit but growth. If there are stockholders, their holdings must increase yearly, daily, hourly. ... How can you make book sales expand endlessly, like the American waistline?"

More: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/0081907


Loneliness of a double life

As new school year approaches and recruiters will be sweeping every campus for impressionable youth it may be a good idea to recount what it is like to be a spy:

"Intelligence agents lead double lives, requiring them to regularly deceive other people, and not just their targets. It is not easy for a person with a solid social conscience to sustain a lifestyle that involves covertly influencing or controlling others through lies. Agents can come to feel subtly detached or separated from other people, feelings that may persist even when they resume their normal lives once their espionage is over.

These psychological burdens of detachment and loneliness are acute while the agents are deployed and living their covers among their targets, where the seemingly trusting social relationships they have built with targets are mostly false, based on lies and manipulation. Sometimes they frankly despise the targets they are pretending to admire. Their real personalities are buried under layers of clandestinity; there is no one there who is aware of their true status, other than themselves. One particularly self-aware agent described his psychological situation while deployed as a form of solitary confinement, with his own skull his prison cell."

More: http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/07/05-spy-wilder

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Writers and the truth in writing

"...given what seems like an endless stream of spectacular literary hoaxes and other transgressions over the last 20 or 30 years, it seems appropriate for writers from time to time to stand up and preach the value of a practical truth: There are standards of reliability in fiction and non-fiction, and it helps us all when writers adhere to them, and it hurts us all when they fall to the wayside. ...

When you learn that a story or anecdote in a literary work is not true, you begin to doubt everything in that work. And when you learn that a work has been debunked as untrue or unreliable, you begin to doubt the truthfulness of every author and the reliability of every text — an effect that is caustic to any culture."

Thus, writers ought to follow these simple guidelines:

"1. Any degree of fabrication turns a story from non-fiction into fiction, which must be labeled as such. (A person cannot be a little pregnant, nor a story a little fictional.)

2. The writer, by definition, may distort reality by subtraction (the way a photo is cropped), but is never allowed to distort by adding material to non-fiction that the writer knows did not happen."

Read More: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/181176/why-nonfiction-writers-should-take-a-vow-of-chastity/



Any time is a good time to read

"Reading has always been one of the most important sources of knowledge and learning. Books are said to be the repository of men’s collective memory, the keepers of the history of humanity, the world of sciences, arts, customs, etc.

The time to read is any time, and a good book is always the most accessible and wisest of friends. Reading is educational because it opens people’s minds, enriches their moral and spiritual values and endows them with new perspectives.

So let us use our free time wisely and cultivate good reading habits, one of the finest practices a person can have. Let us then be fascinated by this ‘healthy addiction’ -as many call it- bringing nothing but joy, satisfaction and insight into our lives."

From: http://www.cadenagramonte.cu/english/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11521:summer-activities-in-cuba-encouraging-reading-habits&catid=57:miscellaneous&Itemid=15

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Why self-published books are plagued with typos

Embarrassed of your freshly printed novel being full of typos? Not your fault:

"Every time you type an email or a document, errors are likely to creep in — and no matter how carefully you proof read, you might not catch everything. Why do we have such a hard time noticing typos and repeated words?

It turns out this is partly a matter of the way your brain processes text — and partly something that's specific to English and a few other languages.

...why do we so often get tripped up on typos and misspellings? It turns out, there's a whole class of word illusions clustered around our instinct to miss errors.

It's true that we miss those types of things routinely. But that's generally because we look for what writing is — and not what writing isn't. What writing is, generally, is a way to communicate meaning from one person to another. 

...reading is so trained into our culture, we do it instinctively. Sometimes our eyes bounce off a page of dense, boring text without absorbing any content — but for the most part it's almost impossible to look at a word and not read it."

More: http://m.io9.com/5924861/an-illusion-that-explains-why-typos-are-so-hard-to-catch

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Ditch TV, write a diary, become a writer.

"Children are completely entrapped by these mediums [TV]. They think and speak in the language propagated by them. It is because media does not give them the space to process independent thinking, it reflects in their decision making. ...

I feel children today are losing the intricacies of language. Their manner of expression has become very technical. Hence, they don’t have a sense of dialogue. Writing a diary gets one into a mode of introspection, which helps them to analyse the world around them.

Adolescence clouds the brain with confusions. It's also an age when children stand to learn a lot as their mind and a myriad of feelings are very active. This is when they also wish to express themselves independently. The personal space of a diary will offer them a chance for out-of-the-box thinking."

From: http://www.punemirror.in/article/62/20120630201206300851454874bbeb95d/Kids-need-to-break-away-from-SMS-and-Twitter-mode.html

I can't help but observe that I wrote and published my first novel only after ditching TV some 12 years ago...



Top publishers in the world


"The top five, as portrayed in the updated “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry” shows, at the top, a bunch of old champions in the global knowledge society: British Pearson, made of the uncontested leader in Education, and one of the biggest brands in fiction and nonfiction Trade books, Penguin, followed by Reed Elsevier, Thomason Reuters and Wolters Kluwer, spearheading mostly digital services for scientific and professional information, and French Hachette, the new comer to knowledge in a truly worldwide perspective.

Those five companies are giants with yearly publishing revenues (not counting newspapers, magazines, TV of advertising) of more than 2 bn € (or 2.5 bn US$), and imposing a strong presence truly around the globe, to provide book or similarly ‘complex’ content, notably leading journals, to the world."

More: http://wischenbart.com/booklab/

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I did not realize that my novels involve a technique called kishotenketsu:

"Japanese writers are trained in a literary technique called kishotenketsu that is entirely different in structure from stories written in the Western literary model with conflict and pronounced outcome. In kishotenketsu the supporting points loop around the main point without creating a linear argument. The points are intended to only obliquely reference the main point, it is up to the reader to infer how this relates to the implied main thesis.

There is no firm conclusion, only an ambiguous ending that might point to several possible outcomes. Again, it is up to the reader to form their own conclusion."

Source: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/12515885-kishotenketsu-a-literary-genre-to-create-thinkers-or-does-it-matter


The redeeming power of literature

"New research by Stanford's Joshua Landy , associate professor of French and Italian, illustrates how authors throughout the ages have sought to improve mental skills like rational thinking and abstract thought by leading their readers through a gantlet of mental gymnastics.

In contrast to the common practice of mining fictional works for moral messages and information, Landy's theory of fiction, outlined in his new book, "How to Do Things with Fictions," presents a new reason for reading in an age when the patience to tackle challenging pieces of writing has dwindled tremendously.

Reading fiction "does not make us better people in the moral sense, whether by teaching us lessons, making us more empathetic or training us to handle morally complex situations," said Landy.

However, for those interested in fine-tuning their intellectual capacities, Landy said literary works of fiction can offer "a new set of methods for becoming a better maker of arguments, a better redeemer of one's own existence, a person of stronger faith or a person with a quieter mind."

More: http://paloalto.patch.com/articles/fiction-books-give-a-boost-to-the-brain-says-stanford-professor


Are you getting any of that which is "better than sex"?

English-only-readers are deprived that which is better than sex:

"When it comes to international literature, English readers are the worst-served in the Western world. Only 3% of the books published annually in America and Britain are translated from another language; fiction’s slice is less than 1%. This contrasts sharply with continental Europe: in France, 14% of books sold in 2008 were translations; in Germany, the figure was 8%, according to Literature Across Frontiers, a translation advocacy network. Yet the bias for English literature appears to be universal: two in three European translations are from English, and about 40% of all novels published in France." source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/07/books-translation

In other words English-only-readers are missing on the action, because:

"Russian literature is better than sex." source: http://rbth.ru/articles/2012/06/25/a_russian_export_better_than_sex_and_more_valuable_than_oil_15958.html