Will Reading Fiction Turn Men Into Sissies? ~ By Sharon Lavy

This post first appeared on the WordServeWaterCooler blog and is borrowed with permission.
Sharon A. Lavy  is best known in the Christian writing community, as that German Baptist lady. In the Old German Baptist community she’s a dress-pattern maker, and the sister who writes. And in her own mind she’s a wife, mother, grandmother, but above all a child of God. Her greatest desire is to be a woman after God’s own heart.
Sharon has a heart for hurting women and writes women’s fiction. In support of fellow writers she posts book reviews and author interviews on two blogs. She lives with her husband on a farm in SW Ohio. When not reading, writing, or sewing for her family, Sharon enjoys traveling with her husband in the small plane they named Charley.
Will Reading Fiction Turn Men Into Sissies? 

Upon learning I’m a
novelist, many brethren (opposite of sisters) tell me they don’t have time to
read, especially fiction. My brother-in-love, bless his heart, wants to write
“real books.” My friend Torry Martin, who works for Adventures in Odyssey, doesn’t have time to read fiction.
Hey, my grands
listen to Adventures in Odyssey. I’ve listened to the books on tape when
traveling with them. Okay, okay, that’s not reading. But, it is fiction. It is
story. And, we get totally immersed in them.
So, this brings up a
question. Is fiction reading something only for women and children?
Not according to the
Art of Manliness
“Whatever the
reason, cognitive studies are beginning to show men might be short-shifting
themselves by avoiding the fiction section in the bookstore and library. 
Today we make the case for why you need to put down those business books every
once in a while and pick up a copy of Hemingway.”
Scientists have
discovered fiction stimulates and improves the functions that allow us to
survive in society. Unfortunately, men received the short end of the stick when
it comes to the ability to socialize.
“Most of your
success as a man,” says Dr.
Keith Oatley,
in love or work, depends on your ability to socialize adroitly. We’ve all heard
the phrase, ‘Success depends not on what you know, but who you know.’ As much
as you’d like to think that’s not true, it is. You can be the most skilled and
talented whatever in the world, but you’ll likely labor away in obscurity if
you don’t know how to reach out and share those talents with others.”
The brains of boys
and girls are the same in the womb, but a male brain changes at birth. (I
learned this from Dr. Gary Smalley. Didn’t everyone?) In order to deal properly
in our world, and in our respective roles, most male brains are good at dealing
with stuff, while female brains are typically better at dealing with people.
While this might
explain why women often prefer fiction over non-fiction, men probably have the
most to gain from reading fiction.
Instead of seeing
fiction as a bunch of made-up, waste-of-time baloney, looking at it as a
simulator allows both men and women to exercise and strengthen the ability to
socialize. Men, every time you pick up and read a novel, you’re molding
yourself into a better, more socially adept man.
Mystery novels
particularly exercise the mind. Whenever you read a Dashiell Hammett novel,
you’re guessing right along with Sam Spade about what the subtle gestures or
the words really mean. Is the suspect or witness just saying something to throw
you and Spade off the trail? Reading fiction is wrestling with reading the
minds of the characters and taxing and fun at the same time. Literary critic,
Lisa Zunshine, says the mental workout you get from reading a detective story does
for the brain what lifting weights at the gym will do for your physical body.
When asked if there
is a special type of fiction that men should read, Dr. Oatley’s response was to
read whatever interests you. The result is the same when reading highbrow Russian
novels or lowbrow dime paperbacks.
“Our studies show
that the effect fiction has on the mind is independent of literary quality,”
says Dr. Oatley.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net 
He recommends
reading a wide variety of fiction, which allows us to get to know more people
in more circumstances.
“Read those
Louis  L’Amour and Michael Crichton novels without any guilt. You’re
helping yourself become a charismatic social-dynamo.”
So, men (or
women  ), what novels have you read