Monday, November 17, 2008

Want to Understand Global Issues? Read a Novel

According to a study by Manchester University and The London School of Economics, as reported in The Telegraph, novels do a better job explaining global issues than academic literature.
Novels should be required reading because fiction "does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does," said Dr Dennis Rodgers from Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute.

He said: "Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports, and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job – if not a better one – of representing and communicating the realities of international development.
As examples, they give The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Brick Lane by Monica Ali, two books that I have read.

I can't do a formal comparison when it comes to Brick Lane. But I would never have dreamed of spending time reading research papers about the assimilation of Bangladeshi immigrants in London, whereas I had no qualms about picking up Brick Lane, so my knowledge of the subject is greater because I read the novel.

Afghanistan is a different matter, I can compare. After 9/11 I spent some time reading political histories of Afghanistan (my roots as a poli sci major coming out here). So I already knew a great deal about Afghanistan before I read The Kite Runner. But reading the novel locked into my mind the timeline of events and made the events seem more real to me. So while I'm not sure I learned more from the novel, I feel confident that I understood on a much broader level.

h/t Bookninja