Why reading fiction is as important now as ever

Novels open us to the nuances of being human.

  • "Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth," wrote Albert Camus. It remains an important social and political tool.
  • Reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy and understanding.
  • In the Instagram age, novels are still a necessary form of communication.
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10 smartest books you can read this summer

Recent books that are sure to add to your intelligence.

A women reads a book under the sun in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris. (Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Summer is a season for relaxation and folly but can also be a time to sharpen your brain against some stimulating literature. These books may not be everyone's idea of beach reading but they are sure to spark up your intelligence. While the list of the smartest books ever would likely be a Sisyphean and ultimately fruitless undertaking, here are some choices from books released within the past year.

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How reading rewires your brain for greater intelligence and empathy

Get lost in a good book. Time and again, reading has been shown to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic.

Fitness headlines promise staggering physical results: a firmer butt, ripped abs, bulging biceps. Nutritional breakthroughs are similar clickbait, with attention-grabbing, if often inauthentic—what, really, is a “superfood?"—means of achieving better health. Strangely, one topic usually escaping discussion has been shown, time and again, to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic animals: reading.

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Minority Book Report: How Reading Grows Our Empathy

What's it like to be a minority in America? To find out, read a book written by one.

Fiction is so much more than a vehicle for entertainment. Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang believes "own-voice" stories, told by people from within those communities, have immense power to show us the world through the eyes and mind of a different cultural group. It can also make our real-world interactions with people who are different to us so much richer, through empathy. "In my personal experience it seems like reading those stories ultimately emphasizes the common humanity that we all have," he says. "I think that’s how your empathy grows." Of course, with minority stories has come much debate surrounding how they're presented, and who is behind it. What is cultural appropriation, and do we even know what's being appropriated? Can just anyone tell a minority story? Listen to Yang dissect this topic through the lens of his own experience — and find out why he's been boycotting the blockbuster film The Last Airbender since 2010 (still going strong). Gene Luen Yang's most recent book is Paths & Portals.

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These Dyslexia Fonts Stop Words From "Floating" Away

Dyslexia makes letters float, rotate, and flip on a page. It turns M's into W's, q's into p's, and so on. Changing the font-face might be able to help keep the letters in place on the page.

Child asleep holding book (Wikimedia)

The debate between which is better, eBooks or page turners, has been going on for a few years. The paper books smell better, the aesthetic growing as the pages turn yellow and the ink smudges from where the stories made the reader cry.

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