Why novels can make you a nicer person

PREVIEW Columnist, and the Library Staff

A recent article in The Week magazine contains an unusual article about new research asserting that if you want to become a nicer, more empathetic person you should read good novels. In fact, reading fiction enables you to better understand other people’s feelings and perspectives.

Psychologists at the New School for Social Research asked people between the ages of 18 and 75 to read 10 to 15 pages of either literary fiction, including short stories by Anton Chekhov and Don DeLillo; popular fiction, including a story by Danielle Steel; or nonfiction articles from Smithsonian magazine. Then they tested the subjects’ ability to look at pictures of people’s eyes and faces and tell what emotions those pictured were feeling.

Researchers found that the subjects who read the literary works scored much higher than the other readers, suggesting that within just a few minutes the stories had heightened their emotional intelligence. That’s likely because literary fiction “forces you as a reader to contribute your own interpretations, to reconstruct the mind of the character,” study author Emanuele Castano told USA Today. That, in turn, may make readers better at empathizing with others and navigating complex social situations in real life.

Lifelong Learning 

Tonight (Thursday, Nov. 21) at 6 p.m. marks the last in the library’s free six-week fall Lifelong Learning lecture series with the subject being stress reduction.  Wellness manager Carol Anderson from the Pagosa Springs Medical Center provides techniques to reduce stress in your life.


Join us for a free viewing of the documentary “Bully” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, followed by a discussion. This session requires no registration and is open to all ages.

Tweens gaming

Join us tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 22) from 2–3:15 p.m. for free Tweens Gaming — Wii, Xbox, board games and cards.

Free Anime/Manga Club 

Teens are invited to join us for a variety of Japanese culture (crafts, movies, cosplay, bento lunches, etc.) on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and on the fourth Saturday of every month. Characters welcome.

Free teen crafts

Join us for “Make It!,”a free teen crafts time on Monday, Nov. 25, from 4 – 5 p.m. and on the fourth Monday of every month

Free technology classes

Meg Wempe is available for the highly popular Tech Tuesdays and Thursdays sessions 10 a.m.-noon Tuesdays and 3-5 p.m. Thursdays. Join her for one-on-one informal help with your computer or tablet issues. A more formal session on digital photos requiring registration takes place tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 22) from 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Free teen gaming

Every Tuesday, from 4 – 5:30 p.m., we host Teen Gaming (X-box, Wii, board games and Pokemon Card Battles). You are welcome to bring other trading card battle games. Snacks provided.

Large print

“The Spymistress” by Jennifer Chiaverini tells of a woman with amazing skills in gathering military intelligence during the Revolutionary War. “Break Out!” by Joel Osteen offers practical steps and encouragement for creating a life without limitations.

Mysteries and thrillers

“Just What Kind of Mother Are You?” by Paula Daly is a thriller about friendship, families and a terrifying betrayal. “Spider Woman’s Daughter” by Anne Hillerman is a new mystery series featuring Leaphorn and Chee, characters created by her father, Tony Hillerman. “Identical” by lawyer Scott Turow is about two identical twins involved in murder and betrayal. “Purgatory” by Ken Bruen is the latest in the series featuring Irish former cop Jack Taylor. “The Joshua Stone” by James Barney tells of a secret underground laboratory in remote West Virginia.

Other new fiction

“Bertie Plays the Blues” by Alexander McCall Smith is the latest in the series about the residents of 44 Scotland Street. “Paris was the Place” by Susan Conley follows the lives of the teacher and students at a center for immigrant girls. “Longbourn” by Jo Baker,the below-stairs answer to “Pride and Prejudice.” “Mad About the Boy” by Bridget Jones starts with the day a girlfriend’s 60th birthday is the same day as a boyfriend’s 30th. “The Ghost Bride” by Yangsze Choo is a coming of age story infused with Chinese folklore.


“Fringe” is a DVD with the complete first season of this American science fiction show. “Joshua” us an inspirational story about a stranger whose mysterious powers inspire a small town.

How-to and self help

“Combat-related Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD by Cheryl Lawhorne and Don Philpott offer guidance for returning veterans, including treatment, rehabilitation and support. “The 80/20 Manager” by Richard Koch describes how to focus on issues that really matter and ignore those that don’t. “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement” by personal financial expert Mary Hunt shows you how to plan to turn your dreams into reality. “The 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes” by Judith Finlayson is a compilation of gluten-free recipes.

Other nonfiction

“Cat Sense” by anthro-zoologist John Bradshaw shows you how the new feline science can make you a better friend to your pet. “Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection” by Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College, explores how American women’s lives have — and have not — changed over the past 50 years. “One Summer: America, 1927” by Bill Bryson takes you back to one amazing season in American life. “The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and its Secret Influence on American Business” by financial journalist Duff McDonald shows how McKinsey’s power has allowed it to set the course of American capitalism.

Thanks to our donors

For books and materials this week, we thank Ali Evans-Crawford, Ed Lowrance, Tom Thorpe, Heidi Moller and several anonymous donors.


For more information on library books, services and programs — and to reserve books, e-books, CDs and DVDs from the comfort of your home — visit our website at http://pagosa.colibraries.org/.

This story was posted on November 21, 2013.