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Book News: Reading And Writing Slow Dementia, Study Says

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A study published in the scholarly journal Neurology [subscription only] says that, although there is no cure for dementia, "reading, writing, and playing games" can slow the disease's progress. The scientists, led by Robert S. Wilson, asked 294 patients about their reading habits over the course of about 6 years, and then tested their brains for dementia after their deaths. The study showed that mentally active patients — ones who read and wrote regularly — declined at a significantly slower rate than those who had an average amount of activity. (Related news from the Shots blog and Morning Edition: "Finding Simple Tests For Brain Disorders Turns Out To Be Complex.")
  • The MI5 file on George Orwell holds some amusingly incriminating evidence: "He dresses in bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours." (As quoted in Alex Danchev's review of British Writers and MI5 Surveillance 1930-1960, by James Smith.)
  • Physician and best-selling author Oliver Sacks writes about why he's looking forward to turning 80 in an essay for The New York Times: "At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together."
  • Buzzfeed's "27 Broiest Books That Bros Like To Read" matrix is shockingly apt.
  • The novelist Joyce Carol Oates inspired an impassioned debate on Friday with a series of tweets that implicitly linked Islam and sexual harassment in Egypt. She wrote: "Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed & rape is epidemic — Egypt — [it's] natural to inquire: what's the predominant religion?" The response was immediate and angry, with writers such as Teju Cole taking offense. Oates later qualified her statement, writing that "Blaming religion(s) for cruel behavior of believers may be a way of not wishing to acknowledge they'd be just as cruel if secular." (Related news on Weekend Edition Sunday: "Sexual Assaults Reportedly Rampant During Egypt Protests.")

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Howard Norman's I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place is a lovely, moody series of autobiographical essays that seeks to explain, "How does someone with a confused soul, as I consider mine to be, try to gain some clarity and keep some emotional balance and find some joy, especially after a number of incidents of arresting strangeness have happened in life?"
  • Mark Kurlansky's Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America is a brisk, compelling social history that shows how the Motown dance hit turned into an symbol for social change.
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