THE BLOG

Readers Rule: The 'LA Times' Festival of the Book

04/14/2015 02:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2015

For the second year in a row I will be volunteering at the LA Times Festival the Books where over 150,000 readers gather to celebrate books.

Since you visit these pages, I'd be willing to bet the house that you consciously and purposefully devote some of your time and energy and imagination, and resources to reading books. I'll double down that many of those books are works of fiction. As a reader myself, I applaud your passion for the make believe. As a novelist, I thank you for being a reader. It's a cool, cool thing you do.

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The average stay on a web page is about a minute; most visits are mere seconds. So, if you're still reading this, it means you are above average. But I already knew that about you. Because you're a reader. That makes you an expert at sustaining attention and thought for long periods of time. In case you think I'm about to mock the web and our distracted wired life, I'm not. I'm a fan of the web, even if it's a bit needy. It's good for books and good for readers of books. It brought us together; why would I berate it.

Researchers using fMRI's (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanned the brains while their subjects read fiction. Their data suggests that close reading of literature improves the function of a complex and coordinated set of brain activities. Doesn't this data support what you already knew? What seemed obvious? Reading literature is good for the brain. Scientists create meaning from data. Readers of fiction do the same.

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Humans are storytellers by nature and by necessity. As soon as we're born we are told stories and as soon as we can speak we tell stories to anyone who will listen. In those early years, just about every story is a fiction. When we tell stories, we place ourselves in the world. Want to understand another place, another culture? Read its fiction.

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When we read, when we spend time with the written word, we are connected to one another. When we read, we are never alone.

Sure, there are many ways to tell a story. Like you, I'm also a fan of telling stories through song, film, fashion, painting, sculpture, weaving, architecture, cooking, spoken word, and on and on. But I'm biased toward books. And on April 18th & 19th we get to come together as a reading community and celebrate the book at the LA Time Festival of Books.