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On Reading

Is Google Books Leading Researchers Astray?

Google Books, “a searchable digital archive of millions of texts spanning the history of the printed word,” can allow scholars to analyze the history of language and culture. But a recent published paper by three data scientists from the University of Vermont claims that the basic design of Google Books makes mapping such cultural trends impossible.

One problem with Google Book’s approach to indexing works is that it archives only one copy of a book. Finding a book listed only once obscures the popularity of best sellers, which libraries characteristically own a large number of to reflect the public’s high demand.

In this article several scholars contribute their own additional concerns about Google Books, at least when its used as a sole source of information. See why the author of the article concludes, “ Ultimately, we might have to recognize that Google Books simply isn’t a great research tool, however appealing it might be.”

The Work of Fiction and the Fiction of Work

The habit of reading fiction is training for friendship and responsible citizenship. A healthy society requires its members to utilize the novel’s three gifts: empathy, imagination, and knowledge. Reading fiction puts us in the habit of wanting to know more about people, treating people as people rather than just as statistics with reductive labels slapped on them. In a world where workers are treated like machines and corporations are treated like humans, we need a novelist’s sense of story in order to hold onto our own identity and to respect the common humanity of our fellow workers, all of us struggling for the necessities of life and a dream or two besides.

How 3 New Kids’ Books Help Cope With Traumatic Events

Writing for Time, Sarah Begley looks at how three new books help middle-grade readers learn about and deal with real-world problems:

  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate portrays how an imaginary friend helps a boy whose family faces the imminent possibility of homelessness—again.
  • The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin presents a girl who obsessively throws herself into research about a specific kind of jellyfish to understand the drowning death of her friend, a strong swimmer.
  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel features a boy whose baby brother is born with multiple congenital problems.

Begley reports that books like these are important even for children who aren’t facing such problems because the stories model resilient behavior and help kids better understand their peers. “What’s critical for all young readers, whether or not they are struggling, is that they discuss things with their parents after reading,” she writes.

6 Ways Reading And Watching Science Fiction Makes You A More Ethical Person

Science fiction, a type of speculative fiction that imagines what people and their world might be like in the future, is gaining in popularity. This article looks at six ways in which reading and watching science fiction can make us more moral or ethical people:

  1. Sci-Fi Has Always Been Focussed On Moral Messages
  2. It’s Is Made For Taking On Current Issues In A Subversive Way
  3. Imagination And Morality Are Heavily Linked
  4. Sci-Fi Lets Us Talk About Ideas More Freely
  5. The Concept Of Aliens Helps People Push Us Past Prejudice
  6. “What-If” Thinking Is Good For Moral Brains

3 Key Advantages of “Slow Reading” That Turbocharge Your Learning

Productivity drives a lot of what we do—we want to get more done, and we therefore have to work faster to become more productive. This drive is most apparent in our desire to consume as much information as possible. We read quickly so we can move on to the next book or article. Fast reading may work in some circumstances, but real comprehension demands slow reading.

In this article Gregg Williams, a marriage and family therapist, describes his own experience with realizing how fast reading in fact slowed him down. It takes him a while to get around to the meat of his argument, but he ends up pointing out three advantages of taking time to read a text slowly:

  1. Slow-reading uncovers “hidden” gems.
  2. Stories lead to deeper truths.
  3. Slow-reading adds to your web of knowledge.

He explains that “ slow reading is also a very good idea whenever you are reading to understand any body of knowledge (for example, textbooks and popular nonfiction).” When you’re trying to learn something, slow reading saves you time because you can follow the logical flow of facts and associations.

In many cases fast reading may serve your purpose better than slow reading. “The good news is that you can decide to switch between the two.”