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Literature and Social Skills

We all know that reading books is a good thing. But apparently reading literary fiction is also good for your social skills (maybe not social media, but what works in the real world can work in the virtual one, too).

A study published in Science, and reported in The New York Times, has found that by reading literary fiction, as opposed to commercial fiction (thrillers and romances and such), people may better understand subtle social signals, body language and interpersonal skills.

The reason, according to the study, is that literary fiction leaves more to the imagination, which requires readers to infer things about characters and situations, which will lead them to be more sensitive to their surroundings in real life.

It’s good to know that we now have evidence to support reading — people who say they don’t have time to read so-called literary fiction (think Trollope, Dickens, Cather, Fitzgerald, Murakami, among others) may reconsider their disregard of novels that don’t serve their business purpose. You know the type: people who declare they only read for business, or to “learn” something useful that they can apply in real life.

Well, apparently, what’s useful in real life can also be gleaned from literature, and not just how-to-get-rich books.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that if you’re in the middle of writing a book to expand your business that you chuck it all and try to come up with a work of literary fiction. It’s good to know, though, that you may learn from other kinds of reading, and writing, than you may have thought.

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