Remember the stillness and quiet at the end of a stirring piece of music? For a moment everyone is caught – absorbing the music, the meaning, the associations or memories that the music evoked. Then comes the thunderous applause, the curtain calls and reality.
Reading is like that. Sometimes I find I have to wait a day before starting the next book. My mind wanders back and the current book (no matter how good it is) just has to wait.
It seems I’m not alone. Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life. Furthermore that those who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life.
Books that have stimulated my brain this year include:
David Miller reading aloud his book Big and Me
Annabel Pitcher My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece
S D Crockett After the Snow
Daniel Handler & Moira Kalman’s Why We Broke Up