Manual Social Lives: A Novel

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The following is a guest post from Courtney Seiter , a content crafter at Buffer , a tool that makes social-media sharing smarter and easier. You can read her posts on social media, productivity, and marketing on the Buffer blog.

One of the most inspiring perks we're lucky enough to have at Buffer is a free Kindle for each teammate and her family! When we share what we're reading at Buffer on our Pinterest page or in our Slack community , the selections often tend to skew more toward non-fiction--you can generally find teammates reading books that help us improve at our jobs, understand our world better and become more productive , for example.

What's interesting--and maybe a bit counterintuitive--is that reading fiction can provide many of those same self-improvement benefits, even while exploring other worlds through stories that exist only in the mind. In fact, the practice of using books, poetry and other written words as a form of therapy has helped humans for centuries. Fiction is a uniquely powerful way to understand others, tap into creativity and exercise your brain. The next time you feel even a tiny bit guilty for picking up a work of fiction instead of a self-help book, consider these 9 benefits of reading fiction.

To put yourself in the shoes of others and grow your capacity for empathy, you can hardly do better than reading fiction. Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for better understanding others and seeing the world from a new perspective. So I'll say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn, or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story, to help complete the story.

In particular, interactions in which we're trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others.


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Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people's intentions 'theory of mind. That's because when we read about a situation or feeling, it's very nearly as if we're feeling it ourselves. As Fast Company reports :. Louis scanned the brains of fiction readers and discovered that their test subjects created intense, graphic mental simulations of the sights, sounds, movements, and tastes they encountered in the narrative. In essence, their brains reacted as if they were actually living the events they were reading about.

We all need periods of disengagement to rest our cognitive capabilities and get back to peak functionality. Tony Schwartz talks about this as one of the most overlooked elements of our lives: Even the fastest racing car can't win the race with at least one or two great pit stops. The same holds true for ourselves.

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If we don't have "pit-stops" built into our days, there is now chance we can race at a high performance. And reading fiction is among the very best ways to get that disengaged rest. The New Yorker reports that:. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress , beating out other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.

Psychologists believe reading works so well because the mind's concentration creates a distraction that eases the body's stress. In fact, the kind of relaxed disengagement that reading creates can become the perfect environment for helping you sleep. Creating a sleep ritual is a great way to build up a consistent sleep pattern. One of the key things is to have the last activity completely disengage you from the tasks of the rest of your day. Buffer's CEO, Joel, has a ritual in the evening of going for a short walk and, upon returning, going straight to bed and reading a fiction book.

He reports that it helps him disengage from the work he's done in the day and get the sleep he needs to wake up refreshed and ready for the next day. Serial optimizer Tim Ferriss also believes in the power of reading before bed--fiction only:. Read fiction that engages the imagination and demands present-state attention. Recommendations for compulsive non-fiction readers include Motherless Brooklyn and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Life is complicated. Oftentimes, interpersonal relationships and challenges don't have the simple resolutions we might like. How can we become more accepting of this reality? By using fiction to explore ideas of change, complex emotions and the unknown.

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Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, proposed to the New York Times that reading produces a kind of reality simulation that "runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers. Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, "is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Saidiya Hartman has always been one of the curious ones. In chronological terms, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments picks up exactly where Scenes of Subjection left off, in the first decades of the Jim Crow era and the beginnings of the Great Migration—the s to the s—and moves north, to Philadelphia and New York, at the moment when black urban life begins on a large scale.

There the continuity mostly ends. Here Hartman draws on the same type of archive she used in Scenes —letters, diaries, brief newspaper clippings, haphazard images, snatches of songs—but she has another goal in mind: to re-create the lives of forgotten, idiosyncratic, marginalized people through speculative reconstruction.

In other words, Wayward Lives is, in part, a work of fiction—what Munro calls the practice of maybe getting it wrong.

The Realistic Novel in the Victorian Era | British Literature Wiki

When the police appeared at her door, May told them that the white man never said he was the police. How was she supposed to know?


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Was she to treat every white man like he was the law? Nothing she said made a difference. They asked her who did the cutting. He was the only one interested in her; the only one who cared if a white man tried to drag her off the street or send her to jail because every black woman was a prostitute in the eyes of the law. Why do it this way; why not limit this investigation to the record itself, which, in many cases, is evocative enough?

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In a short meditation on the word wayward , Hartman puts it this way:. The unregulated movement of drifting and wandering; sojourns without a fixed destination, ambulatory possibility, interminable migrations, rush and flight, black locomotion; the everyday struggle to live free.

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The attempt to elude capture by never settling. Waywardness articulates the paradox of cramped creation, the entanglement of escape and confinement, flight and captivity.