Why should we read? The magazine Project Calm set me the task of explaining how books can sharpen your brain, strengthen your sympathies and make you more resilient (and yes, I do prescribe strong doses of Middlemarch for all conditions). The magazine is on sale now, and features beautiful illustrations by Jody Thomas alongside my words.
For as long as novels have existed, there have been moralists to warn of their dangers. Late Victorian educationalist Charlotte Mason chided that “the girl who sits for hours poring over a novel, to the damage of her eyes, her brain, and her general nervous system, is guilty of a lesser fault of the nature of suicide.” Recent research, though, has claimed that rather than inducing a slow death, reading books can actually keep you alive: a study in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that those who read a book for 30 minutes a day had a 23-month survival advantage, regardless of their wealth, education, health or sex. And fascinatingly, this advantage was specific to books. No other reading material did so much good for its readers.