The writer and the reader experience the sorrow and joy of the last page. Not in exactly the same way, but pretty close. A good book drives you to that last page then, if you’re like me you sit there, hugging the book and feeling lost.
This feeling comes from what psychologist and other scientists call deep reading. Most of us make pictures in our minds. We experience sorrow and joy. Science has shown that our emotional reactions are close to the same emotions as the characters we read about. The deeper, the more intense the reading–the more we exercise our brain. We become more empathetic.
There are people who are not natural readers. Shocking, I know. They don’t experience reading in the same way. But, they can improve their reading skills and enjoyment. Parents reading to children is a critical step in helping poor readers learn to enjoy reading more. It’s important to read because reading increases the white matter in our brain. (A brief discussion of the science can be found here.)
Reading nonfiction doesn’t do quite the same thing. In studies, reading nonfiction lights different areas of the brain than reading fiction does. Not better areas, different. Our emotions aren’t as engaged, but learning centers are.
I prefer reading physical books. I’m of an age where all my pleasurable, early reading experiences come from physical books. I thought this made me prefer physical books. Turns out there’s an extra reason. Physical books give us something that ebooks cannot. It’s called spacial navigability. What that means is that the physical weight and or thickness of a book gives cues about location. We can train ourselves to read electronic format books and enjoy them. We simply have to look for different spacial navigability cues such as the percentage read.
The fact that stories have beginnings, middles, and ends are another reason reading is good for us. It encourages our brains to think in sequence and it expands our attention span. We anticipate the changes from the beginning to the middle and the middle to the end.
Still, reaching the end of a good story can leave us feeling wistful. How long? Depends on the strength of the story and how much you identified with the characters, place, or situation. The same thing can happen when writing a book. The writer has spent days, months, or years with the characters and the world. Breaking up is hard to do.
Thank goodness there are more books to read and more books to write. See, the reader and the writer experience almost the same sorrow and joy of the last page. We are sorry to see it end, but eager for the next one to begin. Me? I’m approaching the end of Ian’s Trust, a novella in the My Soul to Keep series, and the beginning of If I Should Die, book two of the My Soul to Keep Series. Are you at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the book you’re reading?