How reading fiction can help improve our mental health

In general, I avoid clicking on any headline with the weasel words “can” or “might.” However, I did enjoy this reflection on the positive impact of literary reading.

I’m teaching a compressed online literature course, so that involves re-reading the literary works I assigned, as well as engaging with what my students write about those works. I’m reading ahead to prep for my spring courses, but in addition to the professional reading I do for my day job, I’ve also decided to read through the entire Narnia series (I’ve only read four of the seven so far) and I even found time to read the first novel in the fantasy series Mistborn. There’s nothing scholarly or professional about those choices. I’ve blogged before about how reading literary fiction helps us become empathetic humans, about the importance of imagination and daydreaming.  So I thought it was worthwhile to pass along this reflection on reading and mental health.

Could a sonnet change the way we suffer through heartbreak or a novel transform how we recover? What about grief? What about the links between creativity and mental illness? I found myself unexpectedly surprised by the course, particularly the questions at the end of each section. They made me reassess my reading habits. Nobody had asked me to think about these types of questions before. Not really. —Metro (UK)

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