Yes, it can! When we read stories, we draw on the same brain networks that are employed when we’re trying to guess at another person’s feelings, and studies show that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be better at empathizing with others (as well as sleep better and have lower levels of stress and depression). If we want to treat ourselves better, we can use “bibliotherapy”: an ancient practice that encourages reading for therapeutic effect. Should specific novels be “prescribed” for particular emotional and life challenges? Should we re-think reading as “medicine”?
Read the full story in The New Yorker.