Sunday Salon – Give Up Reading??

Could you give up reading for a week? That’s what Bibi van der Zee did. She wrote about it in yesterday’s Guardian. She was beginning to wonder if books were eating her up and whether they were some kind of drug.

I just can’t imagine not reading for that length of time. If I go for one day without reading I start to feel irritable and in need of a book, so perhaps it is a drug of sorts. She discovered this startling information about the effect of reading on the brain.

In a book coming out next year about the psychology of fiction, Professor Keith Oatley describes a piece of research where scientists got people to read while they were in a brain scanner. “When readers were engaged in a story, the researchers found that, at the points in which the story said a protagonist undertook an action, the part of the brain which was activated was the part which the reader himself or herself would use to undertake the action. So, when the story- protagonist pulled a light cord, a region in the frontal lobes of the reader’s brain associated with grasping things was activated.”

I shan’t be giving up reading and I must look out for that book.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Salon – Give Up Reading??

  1. Give up reading? Even for a week? Don’t think I could do it. Unless I absolutely had to. Now I have had times, like after surgery, when I did find it hard to concentrate on the written word. Think it was the drugs. 🙂

    If you find out about that book, let us know. I’d be interested in it too.


  2. Unfortunately, with the way I’ve gotten off to a slow reading start this year, I almost feel like I’ve given up reading. Oddly enough, I’m getting back to reading through graphic novels recently.

    So on the subject of reading, what are you reading for today’s Sunday Salon? Me? I’m “tackling” a couple of graphic novels and a “light” book called Living The Unlived Life.


  3. That quotation was fascinating! I’ve always wondered if I’m a very slow reader because in my head I’m doing what the book says. (If the text says, “He paused”, I’m sure I pause in my reading.) I didn’t realise *everyone* was running the movie-of-the-book in his/her head.

    If this is what reading fiction does to readers, I’d be very interested (as an author) to know what the process of writing fiction does to writers. Does it have a similar effect on the brain, I wonder?


  4. Interesting post. I like the idea of the brain trying to get us to do what we’re reading about. I read a theory on dreams awhile ago that said that dream images are triggered by muscle memory–if you twitch in your sleep, your brain flashes an image of what you saw when that twitch happened before, which explains why most dreams are totally illogical and disjointed. Maybe my brain is remembering what I read about…

    With regards to giving up reading–why? It’s not like it’s bad for you 🙂


  5. I could probably survive for a week without books, but I don´t see any reason why I should. As a teacher of literature I firmly believe that reading, especially good literature, is a wonderful way of expanding your knowledge.


  6. Give up reading? I don’t think so, oh maybe for a day but that would be my limit. That book on fiction sounds absolutely fascinating. I’ll have to find it. Have a great week.


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