[00:00:00] Rowena: Welcome to Two Booked Up, a podcast about business and personal development books, and the conversations they ignite. I'm Rowena Mabbott. I'm a career and life confidence coach, and I'm also a mom.
[00:00:16] Shelley: And I'm Shelley Tonkin Smith, I'm a copywriter, Mompreneur and homeschooling mom too. Today on Two Booked Up, we are singing the praises of fiction. Because really reading a great story is not only a great brain break and a lovely leisure activity. It can be kinda useful in your business or in your career, and just generally in your day to day life.
[00:00:43] Rowena: Yes, it might seem strange that on a podcast dedicated to talking about personal and professional development books, we are publishing an episode all about the benefits of reading fiction. But after all, we are readers and neither of us can resist a good book.
[00:01:01] Shelley: Yes. Fiction or nonfiction, we love reading, which is one of the big reasons why we created this podcast. But okay, Ro, so reading a good work fiction could give us a nice break from our work and our businesses. But a work of fiction is not really like a how to, like a non-fiction book is like some of the books that we feature on Two Booked Up.
[00:01:26] So can you take us through some of the research about how reading fiction can help us in the more practical aspects of life?
[00:01:35] Rowena: Well, this is so interesting, Shelley, because recently there has been a lot of research undertaken into the benefits of reading. There are a lot of social cognitive benefits that come with reading in particular, reading fiction. So a quick explanation on what social cognition means. It is how people process, store and apply information about other people and social situations.
[00:02:01] Specifically looking at the role that cognitive processes play in social interactions. Now, what has been found is that reading fiction aids the brain's development in understanding others and imagining the world. That is, we think more broadly our perspective is broadened and we have a bigger understanding of the world, other people and our own place in it..
[00:02:26] Personally, one of the reasons I love to read fiction is that it supports us to understand different points of view and perspectives, and this applies for adults as well as children. You, in fact, might have seen this with your own children. We've certainly seen it with ours. When our kids read fiction, they have a better understanding of the world and how to relate to people.
[00:02:47] Shelley: Yeah, for sure. I've seen this with my boys. We reading The Tale of Despereaux, at the moment, and we've read quite a couple of other books by that same author, Kate DiCamillo, and I think sometimes even these stories which have animal main characters are actually so insightful for our kids because they can put them into this different world, this different perspective, totally different. You know, it's into an animal's mind. So there's like, all bets are off. It just gives them this perspective that you, you wouldn't get if you were teaching them a lesson.
[00:03:22] Um, and I just think of books like The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Series by Frank Cottrell Boyce, which was a spinoff from Ian Flemming's original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And Chitty, Bang, Bang took us across the whole world and through different time periods.
[00:03:39] But ultimately it's about a family uniting together, accepting each other, like working with each other, leveraging their strengths and weaknesses. And yeah, it just gives my kids these different perspectives that they never would get from like a textbook.
[00:03:56] And I think for me as well, one of my favorite fiction reads this year has been The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin, and that one's a World War II book, and really there I saw her resilience, her confidence sort of stepping into herself and, standing up for herself and supporting others through the war. Of course it also had a lot of reading aloud and it was all about books itself, so it was delightful in that way.
[00:04:26] But again, that fiction takes us into a different time period, gives you a different point of view, and I just love that so much. And so what I also find with reading books like that is that it increases empathy. And I know this is something that's born out by the research that when we read fiction, We increase our empathy and I'm sure everyone can agree that the world could certainly use a lot more empathy.
[00:04:53] And I, just really love that encouraging our kids to read fiction. When we do that, we are increasing their empathy skills, by just reading a really good story.
[00:05:06] Rowena: Yes. One of the biggest and maybe most surprising findings from the research undertaken into reading fiction is that those who read fiction have a short term decrease in the need for cognitive closure. Now, cognitive closure is another psychological term that refers to the need to reach a quick conclusion when making decisions and having an aversion to ambiguity and confusion.
[00:05:32] You might know some people are like that. Now, what this research finding means is that those people who have a high need for cognitive closure, that is people when confronted with confusing situations or circumstances, they're the ones who tend to seize on the quickest explanation and kind of hang onto it from grim death.
[00:05:50] These people generally are more susceptible to things like conspiracy theories or believing very poor quality information. Sadly, they also become less rational in their thinking. Again, this might be something you are familiar with amongst your family and friends. Now, fascinatingly, the research shows that by reading fiction that's right, just by reading fiction, our brains are trained to stay open and more comfortable with ambiguity.
[00:06:21] Additionally, people who read fiction on a regular basis are able to sort through information more carefully.
[00:06:29] So I just love this because this is something that I really want my kids to know, right? I want my kids to be able to think broadly and openly about the world and be receptive to learning research and to be able to be changing their mind in a way that is supported by what they've read. I don't want them to be seizing on the quickest explanation and just assuming that that's correct. So a fascinating piece of research.
[00:06:51] Shelley: Oh yes, yes. I think we all need this practice as kids. I mean, we grow up and we want this world to be black and white and we want right and wrong, and we have the very clear perspective about that. But in reality, there's lots of shades of gray.
[00:07:08] And I think we all need practice of holding two seemingly opposite thoughts or concepts as true. Like, I'm finding like, like, this feels hard, but we're gonna get through it.
[00:07:21] Rowena: And adults need that too,
[00:07:23] Shelley: Oh yes. Oh
[00:07:24] Rowena: Like, I know a few adults who could do with some extra, Maybe they just, maybe we need to give them a prescription to say, just read some more fiction
[00:07:32] Shelley: Yes, Yes, totally. Get in, get in the shoes of all of these characters and see how they have, you know, I think that that hero's journey of like seeing someone triumph over adversity, I think, and, and also being in a position where they, are torn between two paths and two choices, I think being exposed to that hero's journey can be really helpful in us going, yeah. Like two things can be true. The world is not black and white. So yeah, I, I love that for adults and for kids, and I think those are already. If you're not convinced listeners, those are already great reasons to read fiction. But then for me, why I also love reading I fiction is that creativity aspect.
[00:08:19] So, our creativity is enhanced when we read other people's creative outputs. So when we read fiction, we welcome those new ideas and our own creativity will be sparked by what we read. We'll get inspiration from that. it's true that great writers need to be great readers. They need to read voraciously.
[00:08:43] We need to be exposed to good language and different story ideas and different sources of inspiration that we would not have been exposed to had we not picked up a book and gotten lost in the pages of a work fiction.
[00:09:00] Rowena: Absolutely. I completely agree cuz I know many times my creativity has been sparked or inspired after reading a great fiction book. And then what I will write is, you know, my blog post or a newsletter or something else. So it's not a direct correlation. It's just that my, my creativity has been sparked and I, that's probably one of the reasons I'm such an avid reader because I love the fact that it does encourage all sorts of good stuff in ourselves as well.
[00:09:26] So leading on from this, and not only is our creativity sparked, we also learn, and I think you mentioned this, Shelley, we learn to appreciate language. And use language differently. So fiction writing, as we probably all know, has quite a different style and structure from nonfiction and is also very different from written content most of us like to read or we tend to read on a day to day basis, like magazines or news articles or you know, little snippets on Twitter or blog posts.
[00:09:55] Shelley: social media. Yep.
[00:09:55] Rowena: Social media. Exactly. So when we read fiction, our understanding of language expands and our vocabulary grows and we learn whether we are aware of it or not, so that's the best kind of learning, about how language can be used to create other worlds, how it can be used to describe feelings, and also how it can be used to describe characters.
[00:10:17] Shelley: Oh yes, I love books that have really good character development. And I think using language to create and to connect with those feelings of those characters, is really important in fiction writing. And if we're talking about usefulness of fiction in day to day life, like a good work of fiction and a good story is really a key part of what I use in my copywriting.
[00:10:42] Great copywriting, uses storytelling. I love storytelling. I obviously love copywriting. It's how I make my money. And we love fiction. As human beings because storytelling is memorable and great stories can go a long way to help us learn and to remember and retain information. And yeah, really I do use this technique of storytelling in my copywriting and reading good works of fiction does inspire me when I come to write a sales page or write a website or, or that kind of thing.
[00:11:20] So yeah, I really endorse this idea of storytelling being memorable. And also with marketing, you've gotta be memorable with your marketing and with your copywriting. So storytelling is a big key to unlock that.
[00:11:34] Rowena: For sure. Storytelling is such a great way to share ideas. I know there are so many fiction books where I've learned a lot and okay, it might sound a little funny but sometimes I learned more from an unforgettable fiction book than I learned from a personal professional development book because the stories are memorable and I retain them.
[00:11:53] Shelley: Yeah. I think, I think we can all relate to that of like stories that have stood out for us and have been defining in our development. I, I think a great novel can be just as useful and just as transformative as, a non-fiction book, like a how to book of laying out a process or teaching you some new thing.
[00:12:14] But I don't know. Let us know if you agree. Those of you who are listening. Do you agree that you learn more from fiction books? What do you think of what we've shared here about the research into fiction books? Has anything surprised you? We'd love to know what you think about what we've discussed here and continue the conversation.
[00:12:34] So you can find me on Twitter. I'm ShelleyTSmith, or you can sign up for my newsletter at ShelleyTonkinSmith.Com. And if you'd like to learn more about my copywriting services, Then you can head on over to ShelleySmithCreative.com and I'll write you some great stories that sell what you are putting on offer.
[00:12:55] And then if you aren't ready, please subscribe or follow the Two Booked Up podcast in your podcast player. We've got a whole lot more bonus minisodes coming your way. And then go and visit two books up.com where you'll find the show notes with the books we've mentioned today, and a transcript from this episode.
[00:13:13] Rowena: And you can find me at RowenaMabbott on Instagram. And if you'd like to learn more about how I can support you as a career and life confidence coach, as well as receive my new free book, the A to Z of Career and Life Confidence, head over to my online home at rowenamabbot.com. Thanks for listening to Two Booked Up today, Shelley and I will be back with another bonus episode in a few weeks time.
[00:13:36] Until then, go and read some fiction. Happy reading.