Reading for Comprehension

From Anne Kreamer at HBR, The Business Case for Reading Novels:

Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness. 

Theory of mind, the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us — colleagues, employees, bosses, customers and clients — is plainly critical to success, particularly in a globalized economy. The imperative to try to understand others’ points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise.

A relevant article for any leader or aspiring professional.  I’d say even more relevant for folks working in the nonprofit sector.  Reading narrative non-fiction and reading/watching fiction can give you the ability to approach your clients with respect and greater understanding.  Anne Kreamer concludes her piece with the books she’d recommend to better relate in the corporate sector.  A few of my picks for mission driven folks below:

Dan Simon, Homicide & The Corner - approaching the challenges facing inner city Baltimore with an eye for detail and an unflinching dedication to portraying daily realities, these are a must read for anyone dedicated to building a better future, not just hoping for one.

George Orwell, Road to Wigan Pier - while focused on the poverty of northern England in the 1930s, his self analysis is what makes this book invaluable.  He discusses honestly the role his middle class upbringing has had on how he views poverty - and gives a reader tools to dissect her own biases as well.

Thurston Clarke, The Last Campaign - this book about the last 80 days of Bobby Kennedy’s run for President made one of the greatest impressions on me in the last couple years.  RFK’s approach to poverty, inequality and social ills  is still one worth emulating - and the picture of people from every background’s dedication to his cause gave me hope - even as the book ends in despair.

Even the Rain (film) - this film is broken into three interweaving poems: a Spanish film crew shooting a movie in Bolivia about Columbus’ arrival to the Americas, footage of the film they’re making, and the story of the Bolivians who are fighting the privatization of their community’s wells.  A scathing critique of inequalities that persist - posing the question: how different are we from conquistadors?  How different are the structures we uphold?