Bookends #7 Sept 2018

I neglected my Bookends posts over the summer — not through lack of material to share, just a question of other things taking priority (like sitting in the garden). But with September comes that feeling of  “summer is over, time to knuckle down to work/schools/study” so I’ve given myself a good talking too and promised to get back into a regular routine with Bookends, sharing just three things that have sparked my interest from the multitude of news articles, blog posts and announcements that drop into my email box.

This week brings an article about the supposed health benefits of reading, a new novel by a favourite writer from the past and

Book: Transcription by Kate Atkinson. 

TranscriptionAtkinson has been a favourite of mine for several years , starting with Scenes Behind a Museum and continuing with her Jackson Bodie series. I fell out of love with her Costa-winning novel Life After Life and wasn’t excited by the idea of A God in Ruins.

But her latest novel Transcription which is published in the UK this month, sounds much more promising.

At the heart of the novel is a woman who gets a job in an obscure department of the British secret service during World War 2. Once the war ends she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel.

The reviewer in the Guardian suggests this novel sees Atkinson once again use an indirect structure (the novel apparently begins at the end) and play with questions of reality/unreality.

I’m hoping our local library system has put this on order…

Blog Post: Podcasts for every reader

As a devotee of podcasts I’m always on the look out for something new to listen to while in the gym or driving to the supermarket. I’ve tried dozens over the years. Some like the A Good Read stream from the BBC, I’ve stuck with but others I’ve abandoned after just one or two episodes because I find the style of presentation (far too many “awesomes”) or the presenters’ voices hugely irritating.

Buzzfeed has just published an article listing 31 podcasts all relating to books and reading (why 31 and not 30 is a mystery). Many of these I’ve not heard of before and some are definitely not to my taste but there are a few I think I’ll dip into. I’m intrigued by one podcast called Live by the Book where the two hosts take a self-help book and try to live by its ‘rules’ for two weeks. Self-help books vary enormously in quality I’ve found, the worst being from authors who came up with one idea that can be explained in a page or two but then gets spun out to more than 200 pages.  Yes “Who Moved my Cheese?” I’m looking at you…..

Article: Readers tend to live longer?

Over the decades, I’ve seen many benefits claimed for the practice of regular reading, from improving your vocabulary, expanding your knowledge of other cultures and ways of living, to helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Today I came across a report from Yale University that claims reading books on a regular basis can help you live longer.

Apparently, Yale’s School of Public Health conducted research in 2016 with a group of 3,635 people, that looked at possible links between the number of hours each individual spent per day on reading and their  life expectancy.

One of the conclusions was that the book readers in the study group who spent up to 3.5 hours a week engrossed in a book were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12-years following the study, while those who read more than the three hour-mark were 23 percent less likely to die.

I’m quite taken by the idea that even 30 minutes reading a day has a health benefit (do the longevity benefits increase if you read standing up??). What a great way to justify my habit of buying yet more books…….they’re an investment for the future in essence.

Unfortunately the researchers didn’t provide a detailed explanation of how this connection works other than to point to the known cognitive benefits associated with reading.

“Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage,” say the authors. “First, it promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival.

I can understand how the process of reading stimulates the brain and helps mitigate against conditions like Alzheimer’s. But I’m still not clear how empathy, emotional intelligence necessarily translate into the ability of the body to withstand conditions such as cancer or heart disease.

However it’s an interesting question and one I was hoping Yale had continued to research – particularly since in their report they mention the potential for looking at differences between reading physical books and e-readers or listening to audio versions. But I’ve not found anything more recent to indicate their work is on going.

If anyone finds a more recent article, do let me know

In the meantime you can read an abstract of the study  here  and a detailed article here





What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

23 thoughts on “Bookends #7 Sept 2018

  • Oh thanks for that podcast link! Husband and I were looking for some where people actually read stories, poems etc just the other day. We found the New Yorker on but LeVar Burton, cool! I hope we can give that one a try soon.

  • I’m reading Transcription now and enjoying it so far – just started. The only podcast I listen to regularly is Sword and Laser, which didn’t make the Buzzfeed list. But now I have some new ones to look up, especially the one by Levar Burton!

    The study you mention is interesting because lately I’ve been trying to exercise more and I’m finding that exercise cuts into my reading time. So the question is, which one is healthier?

    • What a question! Well reading might keep your brain active but it does nothing for your muscles and unfortunately those do deteriorate very quickly. Muscle loss is responsible for a whole lot of other problems so if time is precious I think I would give up the reading books. You can always listen to them on audio while exercising though…

  • I don’t know about living longer but I’ve noticed quite of the lot of the couple of hundred older people I regularly come into contact with who read are often happier, both in that they are often more engaged in conversations, but also regularly escape. Quite a few times I’ll get no reply on a morning call and it will turn out the tenant was reading a particularly thrilling book until 4 a.m and is having a long lie to make up for it (a perk of retirement!). I wonder if doing anything that makes people happy generally increases wellbeing, therefore having a positive health effect.

    • Well my mother in law was one of those who would read in the very early hours of the morning because she woke early. She lived until 90 so there has to be something going on her. She also did lots of crosswords. Happiness has to have an influence I agree

  • Judy Krueger

    My feelings about Atkinson’s books resemble yours. Glad to know Transcription is more like her good old self. My only literary podcast is Otherppl, not mentioned in the list. He really digs into how writers got their careers going and the ideas behind their books, though lately he spends too much time on the current political scene. My parents were both big readers. My dad did get Alzheimer’s after which he could not read, died at 85. My mom was felled by two strokes shortly after she turned 90 and died three months later. It was heartbreaking to watch her try to read after the strokes and then give up because she could not follow the story. But they were brilliant people. Then there was Iris Murdoch. Yes, I think the study needs more work.

    • i’ve never come across Otherppl – will have to take a look at it though if its become political that would probably irritate me. I can get enough of that on news channels 🙂 Re Iris Murdoch – such a sad condition for one who had such a brilliant mind. But yes it does undercut that research somewhat.

  • I actually listen to By the Book podcast regularly and I really like it. I’m also looking forward to Transcription – I actually pre-ordered it!

  • I too loved Jackson Brodie, including Life After Life. I must look out for Transcription.

    • I know there are plenty of people who adored Life after Life. Fortunately we don’t all have to like the same things 🙂

  • For a study about reading and longevity to be convincing, it would have to be long term and actually follow people until their deaths. Fingers crossed, though! And your comment about standing while reading gave me a good giggle 😄

    • Yep, and have a universe significantly bigger than the 3,000 people in this study. But I find now that more and more ‘studies’ which get news coverage are based on just a few hundred participants.

      As for the standing up reading – it has to be better than the practice I have seen in some gyms where people read a book while cycling

  • I finished Life After Life last week. It was my first Atkinson and I LOVED it. God in Ruins is next…. but it seems you think these are not Atkinson’s usual style??

  • Transcription is currently on Radio 4. My husband listened today while cooking but I tried not to hear too much as I want to read it.

    • I’ll try to shut my ears if it comes on when I’m around for the same reason

  • I’m very fond of A Good Read which introduced me to Murakami years before he became well known here in the UK. The Harvard study sounds interesting. I imagine there are other factors in play besides the process of reading itself.

    • I think the researchers did look at other factors like diet.

  • Oh, I love the idea that readers might live longer…good for us!

    I loved Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, but not so much Life After Life, so I passed on A God in Ruins. I am pleased that Transcription might be one I enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

    • I passed on a God in Ruins for exactly the same reason Laurel


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