Introverts! This is Our Time to Shine

Don’t let those couch potatoes do all of the world-saving by themselves. Yeah, I know, they can watch for hours on end, but you need to get your ass in gear and keep reading! Introverts, book nerds, socially awkward humans – whatever you want to call yourselves – I think we already knew this, but we we will win this quarantine. And nobody can do it better, not even those TV heads. We have been preparing for this for years. For readers, it’s our time to shine guys.

They first told us to practice social distancing, and we were like, “yasss, finally!”

Then they told us to isolate, we said, “we already are.”

Restaurants aren’t open, so go ahead and do a curbside pick up – you got this! But first, let me see how tall I can stack these Books.

Hmmm, I can’t go to the mall, I guess I’ll just have to order online. *Makes a pot of coffee for the endless clicking, mundane searches and e-buying.

No more sports games in the background, even better!

It’s just you and that stack of books that you have been putting off… or adding to it, so it never really gets lower.

What have you been able to accomplish during this quarantine that you may not have normally been able to accomplish?

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

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How Reading Makes us Better People

Every day more than 1.8 million books are sold in the US. Despite all the other easy distractions available to us today, there’s no doubt that many people still love reading. Books can teach us plenty about the world, of course, as well as improving our vocabularies and writing skills. But can fiction also make us better people?

The claims for fiction are great. It’s been credited with everything from an increase in volunteering and charitable giving to the tendency to vote – and even with the gradual decrease in violence over the centuries.

Characters hook us into stories. Aristotle said that when we watch a tragedy two emotions predominate: pity (for the character) and fear (for yourself). Without necessarily even noticing, we imagine what it’s like to be them and compare their reactions to situations with how we responded in the past, or imagine we might in the future. Be an epic reader!

If You Don’t Use it You Lose it

This exercise in perspective-taking is like a training course in understanding others. The Canadian cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley calls fiction “the mind’s flight simulator”. Just as pilots can practice flying without leaving the ground, people who read fiction may improve their social skills each time they open a novel. In his research, he has found that as we begin to identify with the characters, we start to consider their goals and desires instead of our own. When they are in danger, our hearts start to race. We might even gasp. But we read with luxury of knowing that none of this is happening to us. We don’t wet ourselves with terror or jump out of windows to escape.  

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Having said that, some of the neural mechanisms the brain uses to make sense of narratives in stories do share similarities with those used in real-life situations. Reading the word “kick”, for example, areas of the brain related to physically kicking are activated. If we read that a character pulled a light cord, activity increases in the region of the brain associated with grasping. Even if it’s an eReader versus a paperback book!

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

The Plot Thickens

To follow a plot, we need to know who knows what, how they feel about it and what each character believes others might be thinking. This requires the skill known as “theory of mind”. When people read about a character’s thoughts, areas of the brain associated with theory of mind are activated.

With all this practice in empathizing with other people through reading, you think it would be possible to demonstrate that those who read fiction have better social skills than those who read mostly non-fiction or don’t read at all.

The difficulty with conducting this kind of research is that many of us have a tendency to exaggerate the number of books we’ve read. To get around this, Oatley and colleagues gave students a list of fiction and non-fiction writers and asked them to indicate which writers they had heard of. They warned them that a few fake names had been thrown in to check they weren’t lying. The number of writers people have heard of turns out to be a good proxy for how much they actually read.

We have some fiction horror as well as non-fiction being available as an eBook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play and Kobo.

The Neuroscience Behind Reading

Next, Oatley’s team gives people the “Mind in the Eyes” test, where you are given a series of photographs of pairs of eyes. From the eyes and surrounding skin alone, your task is to divine which emotion a person is feeling. You are given a short list of options like shy, guilty, daydreaming or worried. The expressions are subtle and at first glance might appear neutral, so it’s harder than it sounds. But those deemed to have read more fiction than non-fiction scored higher on this test – as well as on a scale measuring interpersonal sensitivity.

At the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab, psychologist Diana Tamir has demonstrated that people who often read fiction have better social cognition. In other words, they’re more skilled at working out what other people are thinking and feeling. Using brain scans, she has found that while reading fiction, there is more activity in parts of the default mode network of the brain that are involved in simulating what other people are thinking.

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

So the research shows that perhaps reading fiction does make people behave better. Certainly some institutions consider the effects of reading to be so significant that they now include modules on literature. At the University of California Irvine, for example, Johanna Shapiro from the Department of Family Medicine firmly believes that reading fiction results in better doctors and has led the establishment of a humanities programme to train medical students.

It sounds as though it’s time to lose the stereotype of the shy bookworm whose nose is always in a book because they find it difficult to deal with real people. In fact, these bookworms might be better than everyone else at understanding human beings.

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Digital Libraries You Can Visit From Your Home

Is your state still on shut down? Kids still out of school? Many libraries, museums and organizations are offering some of their content for free online. Here are just 7 digital libraries you can visit from the comfort of your own home.

Digital Public Library of America Digital Library

The DPLA is an online collection of over 36 million free digital materials from libraries, archives and museums. Its digital exhibitions and primary sources cover everything from the 1918 influenza pandemic to the golden age of comic books.

Nautical Archaeology Digital Library

If you’re fascinated by shipwrecks, the Nautical Archaeology Digital Library has you covered. The library, a collaboration of Texas A&M University and ShipLAB, contains searchable shipwreck databases and ancient ship models.

CIA’s FOIA Electronic Digital Libraries

Looking for digital data to make you feel like a secret agent? Look no further than the Central Intelligence Agency’s Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room. The online collection houses items from FOIA and CIA release programs, including more than 50 years of CIA information on UFOs and a collection dedicated to the oldest classified documents in the US.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Biodiversity Heritage Library provides open access to biodiversity literature. The archives are home to curated collections with books from Charles Darwin’s personal collection to field diaries from explorations of Antarctica.

Digital libraries you can visit from home from Mind on Fire Books

New York Public Library Digital Library

The New York Public Library’s online collection contains nearly 890,000 digitized items. Its archives and manuscripts cover books, prints, photographs and more unique collections, like a massive database of over 17,000 historical restaurant menus.

National Library of Medicine Digital Libraries

The History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine contains a vast collection of digital materials related to health and disease. Through its online resources, patrons can view the earliest anatomical drawings, read about the history of forensic medicine and explore an exhibition dedicated to the accomplishments of women physicians.

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Getty Publications Virtual Libraries

The Getty Publications Virtual Library hosts an impressive collection of art books, with more than 300 publications that can be read and downloaded for free, including some that are out of print.

Elvis Presley’s Reading List

It turns out that Elvis Presley’s reading list that was very into spiritual readings, Taoism, esoteric philosophies and learning about the different values in different cultures. When Elvis died in his Graceland bathroom thirty years ago today, he is said to have been reading a book about the Holy Shroud of Turin – normally identified as A Scientific Search For The Face Of Jesus (1972) by Frank O. Adams, which argues that the Turin Shroud really is Our Lord’s Shroud. It has since become eagerly sought after by Elvis fans. Less impressive is the other book he was allegedly reading – Sex and Psychic Energy. Hmmmm, we better move quickly along.

These titles represent some of the books mentioned in his 1989 book If I Can Dream: Elvis’ Own Story (now out-of-print). We cannot be sure that Elvis Presley read all of these books, but they concern subjects he was deeply interested in and felt were important to his daily life.

Elvis Presley’s Reading List

The Impersonal Life [written anonymously] is described as Elvis’ favorite book next to the Bible and the one whose “teaching, practice and discipline transformed his life.” 

Elvis made his first recording in 1953. Elvis Presley’s Reading list was written for Mind on Fire Books

Aquarian Gospel of Jesus The Christ by Levi H. Dowling

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind by Richard Maurice Bucke

Esoteric Healing by Alice A. Bailey

First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti

We have a plethora of articles pertaining to book reviews, famous writers, and dark fiction gems, here.

The Huna Code in Religions by Max Freedom Long

On Elvis’s bedside table in 1960 was The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and How to Live 365 Days a Year by Dr. John A. Schindler. He often read medical texts and was so well-versed in The Physician’s Desk Reference that he more than held his own when talking to medical professionals about prescription drugs.

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Elvis Presley’s Book Collection

The king also had an eclectic taste. Elvis Presley’s reading list purchases in 1963 include the following unique collection: Antique Guns, Eyewitness History of World War II, First 100 Days of the Kennedy Administration, Guns, Joke Dictionary, Jokes for the John, World Atlas, Our Fifty States, East of Eden, Strange People, and

The Impersonal Life by Anonymous

The Infinite Way by Joel S. Goldsmith

Isis Unveiled (2 Volume Set) by H.P. Blavatsky

Leaves of Morya’s Garden, Book 1: The Call 1924 by Agni Yoga Society 

Leaves of Morya’s Garden, Book 2: Illumination 1925 by Agni Yoga Society 

We have a plethora of articles pertaining to book reviews, famous writers, and dark fiction gems, here.

Elvis Presley’s reading list was eccentric

Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East (6-Volume Set) by Baird T. Spalding

The Masters and the Path by C. W. Leadbeater

Meetings With Remarkable Men: All And Everything, 2nd Series by G.I. Gurdjieff

The Mystical Christ by Manly Palmer Hall 

What do you think was on Elvis Presley’s reading list?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Sacred Science of Numbers by Corinne Heline

The following lists a few other books Elvis was interested in, but all of them are out of print:

Cheiro’s Book of Numbers by Cheiro

We have a plethora of articles pertaining to book reviews, famous writers, and dark fiction gems, here.

The Gospel According to Thomas by Raghavan Iyer

New Mansions for New Men by Dane Rudyar

We have a plethora of articles pertaining to famous writers, philosophers and musicians that you can easily access for FREE here.

On Writing Horror Willy Martinez

  • On Writing Horror amassed from an obsession to learn where the power of fear resides. An anthology of works studying the way in which writers evoke fear and how they may affect us. On Writing Fear is an index of terror, drawing from Aristotle, Longinus, Edmund Burke, Che Guevarra, Wordsworth, Foucault, H.P. Lovecraft, Todorov, and many more.

    Chapters include digital illustrations created by the author.

    Also available at the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

    A must have collection of research on the power of Horror- a tormented treatment of the human passions!

    Table of Contents for On Writing Horror

    Ch 1. Fear and War: Crafting the War on Terror Using Fear Appeals Ch 2. The Art of the Coup D'etat Ch 3. The Feminine Supernatural versus the Male Supernatural Writers Ch 4. Projecting Ghost Children to Find Identity Ch 5. The Supernatural Power of the Sublime in Wordsworth's Poetry Ch 6. Disorienting Characters with Haunted Spaces and Auditory Hallucinations Ch 7. Modern Ghosts Ch 8. The Fantastic in Fear Ch 9. The Fun Side of Fear: Faustus' Tricky Imp of Satan Ch 10. Glorifying Satan

    Some of the art included:

    [caption id="attachment_4846" align="alignnone" width="188"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4847" align="alignnone" width="200"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4848" align="alignnone" width="194"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption]

Mad Men

  • Mad Men is a collection of three disturbing horror shorts from authors living in the Midwest. The themes explored in this collection range from man versus self, man versus man, and man versus creature. [caption id="attachment_4742" align="alignleft" width="188"]Mad Men eBook Mad Men eBook at Mind on Fire Books[/caption] Mad Men begins with Matt’s tale, a thought-provoking thriller which causes the reader to question his reality and what he fears within himself. The second tale explores the grotesque juxtaposed with beautiful nature, where the ending unfolds into a horrific dream, waking in even more terrible pain. The third tale is by seasoned horror writer, A.R. Braun – and his diabolical creatures never disappoint!  A.R. Braun’s goal is to be on the banned book list; we think this tale may just be evil enough to be considered. A must read before it does get banned! Mainstream Horror Shorts don’t always satisfy us in the way they should. They don’t open conversations about what it is that we fear or why we fear such things, they focus mainly on pop culture and gore. The writers in the Mad Men anthology understand the need for literate horror, opening discussions of man’s psyche. When these writers set out to tell a story, they are less interested in conveying fear and more interested in wonder, the sublime, and the infinite strangeness that drives all man and woman. Highly recommended for tweens, teens, and adults. The Mad Men anthology published by Mind on Fire Books. Written by Willy Martinez, A.R. Braun and Matt Lavitt. No part of this book shall be copied without permission from the publisher.
Benefits to Reading