Can you ever read too many novels?

A while ago I wrote a blog post about research published in the May Scientific American touting the therapeutic value of writing. Now, research published in the June issue of New Scientist says longtime readers are more empathetic and have better social skills than their less well-read peers.

Interesting. Describing someone as being well-read connotes a certain worldliness that may well encompass social graces that are above average. It’s curious that even though film and television have been around so long, we never refer to people as being well-viewed. Despite its immediacy, film still can’t show us the hearts, minds and souls of others as effectively as fiction.

On the other hand, why do so many bookworms sometimes seem nerdy and maladjusted? I guess this particular research assumed a broad reading base and not an exclusive diet of SF or fantasy.

Here is a link to an interview with one of the researchers; the article on the New Scientist site is not available for free. For other interesting psychological research on reading and writing, check out the researchers’ blog On Fiction.

Photo credit: Moriza, Creative Commons

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1 Response to “Can you ever read too many novels?”


  1. 1 JM August 7, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Spider Robinson (possibly paraphrasing Heinlein)once wrote an article arguing that the more “fictons”, or fictional settings, you had inhabited/experienced through reading, the better able you were to encounter a variety of situations in real life. Perhaps the maladjusted are either inherently so (regardless of reading material), or they are devoted to a type of fiction that does not overlap well with real life?


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