Weekend Reading: February 2018

Weekend Reading: February 2018

Happy February! We’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to browse and enjoy this weekend.

In Pacific Standard, Michele Weldon examines why “as humans, we are helpless story junkies.” Take the latest winners and finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism, Weldon writes: “The best reporting in all of the categories is tied to the personal stories of the individuals impacted.” Journalists, novelists, advertisers, politicians and CEOs seem to understand and capitalize on the power of story. But why does a well-told story resonate so profoundly with the average person? Weldon explores various recent studies into how our brains and bodies react to narratives  – and how we react to each other after reading:

“Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate School, found that reading simple, humanistic stories changes what is in our blood streams. Taking blood samples of subjects before and after reading a story about a father and his terminally ill son, Zak found their blood levels contained an increase of cortisol and also oxytocin after reading the story. Called the human bonding or empathy chemical, oxytocin is also released by breastfeeding mothers.

Once they had read the story, subjects were then asked to donate money to a cause for ill children. Eighty percent of the subjects complied. Imagine anything that would cause 80 percent of subjects to do as they were asked.”

Elsewhere on the Internet:

Amy Gallo defends disagreement in the workplace as “an inevitable, normal, and healthy part of relating to other people” in a piece for the Harvard Business Review.

The New York Times reviews two new books that delve into the social history of literature and how it has conditioned us (and vice versa). “Literature,” writes author Martin Puchner in The Written World, “since it emerged 4,000 years ago,” has “shaped the lives of most humans on planet Earth.”

A comprehensive new report from McKinsey & Company makes the case that diversity is good for business – and that inclusion efforts are key to establishing a competitive edge.

Author Ada Palmer writes for Scientific American about the difference between hard science-fiction and social science fiction. It’s the latter, she writes, that allows us to explore “the mechanisms of history,” nature and technical processes, and “historical change over time.”

The average employer spends $693 per employee on well-being initiatives per year – but most of those dollars go into physical fitness activities. Adi Gaskell makes a strong case in Forbes for corporate wellness programs that invest in employee mental health.

Image: Juan Gris, Carafe and Book, 1920, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain [Public Domain] via WikiArt.org

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Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan is a Development Communications Associate at the Cleveland Orchestra and a part-time member of the Books@Work team. She continues to write posts for our blog.