Reading classic novels and brain activity

Research has shown that people who read a classic novel in a “focused, literary” way use more brain activity than when the same people read a classic in a casual, relaxing way.


The book used to prove this was Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and the “people” in the experiment were PhD students.

Are the results shocking? Not really - I’m pretty sure that if you are focused on something, you always use more brain activity. But the interesting fact of the study is that, when focusing on a text, a person uses several different brain functions - more than are usually used when you focus on a task.

Do I understand the details of this? No, I’m no neuroscientist. 

However, it does make me wonder what goes on in my brain while I read a classic. I don’t have a PhD in literature, but I have followed several literature classes at college, so I have a basic knowledge of the components of literature. But, as I said before, I struggle with fully delving into classic novels - I feel like I never enter the “casual, relaxing” reading and am constantly forced to focus and analyse.

I assume that using more brain activity means that you get tired from reading classics easily. So I’m putting it to the test. In the last week, I finished We Were Liars and How To Be A Heroine. I finished We Were Liars in about 1 day (amazing book, I can’t wait to write the review on this one!) and How To Be A Heroine in 4 days (it took me a bit to get into the book). However, there was never any limit on how much of the book I could read every day.


So anyone up for testing the reading classics/getting tired combination? I’m started Jane Eyre today, a classic that I always wanted to read, but was never motivated to read. It sounds like it should be a book I love, so I’m excited. How long will it take me to finish the book?

And on a completely unrelated topic, for those asking about the newsletter, this week there will be no newsletter. I love my things to be perfect and this newsletter just isn’t perfect yet. However, this just means that you have more time to pick up your classic and do this experiment with me: Does it take you longer to read classics?