Earlier this month, J.P. Morgan released its annual summer reading list which consists of eleven "inspiring and actionable" books. Notably absent from this list are books of fiction. But we may not want to write this genre off so fast. According to science, reading fiction can make us more successful at work by enabling us to better connect with our colleagues, helping us make sense of the world around us, and boosting our creativity.
1. Build your empathy muscle
A number of research studies have shown that when we read about depictions of smell, touch, and movement, we use the same parts of our brain as when we experience these sensory stimulations ourselves. Taking the research further, a York University psychologist found significant overlap in brain regions activated to understand stories and those used to interact with other individuals.
Put another way, when we read and imagine stories, we are exercising and improving our ability to interact with and understand people. By reading fiction, you improve your ability to empathize with colleagues, clients, and anyone else you might engage with throughout the workday so that you might have more effective conversations and design more valuable offerings.
2. Assess and adapt to the world around you
A University of Toronto psychologist has proposed that reading fiction is a "reality simulator" for our brain. When we read fiction, we help our brains experience and work through complicated situations that could come up in real life. Especially when we read science fiction, we give ourselves the ability to contemplate change.
Reading fiction is like practice for reality. We consider different hypothetical situations and allow ourselves to think through how they might turn out and how it makes us feel. In some ways, fiction enables us to build a database of experiences to draw from in our real lives.
3. Boost your creativity
Exploring how literature impacts our need for closure, researchers have found that when exposed to fiction, people have less desire for closure than their fiction-reading counterparts. When we process fiction information, we are more comfortable with ambiguity.
Ambiguity fuels creative thinking, making us more willing to think in unconstrained and exploratory ways.
Convinced and need a place to start? Here were the five best fiction books of 2016, according to the New York Times: