In Praise of Readers
Published November 13, 2012
Elan Barnehama

Since you visit these blog pages, I’d be willing to bet the house that you consciously and purposefully devote some of your time and energy and imagination and focus to reading books.  I’ll double down and venture that many of those books are fiction.  As a reader myself, I applaud your passion for the make believe.  As a novelist, I thank you for being a reader.  It’s a cool cool thing you do.  And, should I be fortunate to have you as a reader of my novel Finding Bluefield , well then, cooler still.  And humbly appreciated.

The average stay on a web page is about a minute; most stays are far shorter.  So, if you’re still reading this, it means you are above average.  But I already knew that about you.  Because you read fiction.  That makes you an expert at sustaining attention and thought for long periods of time.  In case you think I’m about to mock the web and our distracted wired life, I’m not.  I’m a fan of the web, even if it’s a tad needy.  It’s good for books and good for readers of books.  It brought us together; why would I berate it.

Recently, researchers using fMRI’s  (functional magnetic resonance imaging), scanned the brains while their subjects read fiction.  Their data suggests that close reading of literature requires and improves the function of a complex and coordinated set of brain activities. Doesn’t this data support what we already knew?  What seemed obvious?  Reading literature is good for the brain.  Scientists create meaning from data.  Readers of fiction do that as well.

Humans are story-tellers by nature and by necessity. As soon as we’re born we are told stories and as soon as we can speak we start to tell stories to anyone who will listen.  In those early years, just about every story is a fiction.  We need to tell stories to place ourselves in the world.  We listen to stories to understand how others place themselves in the world.  We just plain and simple like stories.  They’re fun and they make us feel stuff.  All kinds of stuff.

There’s no limit to how we can tell a story.  And we tell them through song, film, fashion, painting, sculpture, weaving, architecture, cooking, and of especially writing. I’m biased, but I think that when we read a book, when we spend time with the written word, we are connected to one another.  When we read, we are never alone.

So, dear reader, I thank you for that connection and wish you many happy readings.


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