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Set Your Mind on Fire. Read.

Need more evidence that our superficial skim-and-go world is bad for your brain? Look no further than this 2012 study on the impact of reading on the brain, published in the World of Psychology. Read the story by clicking here.

It’s short. I’ll wait.

What really intrigued me about this branch of literary neuroscience is the specific investigation of the cadence of poetry and literary metaphor and how they fire the whole brain, versus the rapid-fire categorize-and-move-on approach of the online world.

I worry about my skull full of mush, when I read articles like this one.

When I dismiss something with a cursory glance, am I missing out on an adventure? A life-altering experience? A meaningful friendship? I mean, I know our world moves fastfastfast, but is it fair to categorize a thing within a millisecond and either accept it or write it off? Am I a better person because I do that?

Or a lesser one?

I hope my 444-mile walk changed me in multiple ways. In how I see and accept others. In the limits I place on myself. But especially, in how and why I choose to read a thing. Because, whether I like something or hate it, I always find growth from the process of exposing myself to something else. Something other. Something new.

by Cassandra King (Goodreads Author)

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40 · rating details · 403 ratings · 102 reviews

When Helen Honeycutt falls in love with Emmet Justice, a charismatic television journalist who has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, their sudden marriage creates a rift between her new husband and his oldest friends, who resent Helen’s intrusion into their tightly knit circle. Hoping to mend fences, the newlyweds join the group for a summer at his late wife’s family home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Helen soon falls under the spell not only of the little mountain town and its inhabitants, but also of Moonrise, her predecessor’s Victorian mansion, named for its unique but now sadly neglected nocturnal gardens. But the harder Helen tries to fit in, the more obvious it is that she will never measure up to the woman she replaced.
Someone is clearly determined to drive her away, but who wants her gone, and why? As Emmet grows more remote, Helen reaches out to the others in the group, only to find that she can’t trust anyone. When she stumbles on the secret behind her predecessor’s untimely death, Helen must decide if she can ever trust—or love—again.

I tend to avoid Writers Based in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Not because they aren’t talented people or amazing storytellers. I’ve just lived in that place a very long time. I tend to get distracted by the rabbit trails of my own imagination and don’t feel like I’m fair to the writer and how they saw the place in their own minds.

But I’ve always admired Cassandra King.

Because Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of my favorite all-time books, I couldn’t resist Cassandra King’s Moonrise (get the book by clicking here.) Even though she had a perilous path to climb in my own mind.

For several years, I was lucky to have access to a place near Highlands, North Carolina, where the novel is set. I spent some of the happiest moments of my life wandering its mountain paths, justifying my own trips to the Old Edwards Spa, meeting strange naked men at waterfalls (TOTALLY RANDOM AND NOT PLANNED AND NOT SEXUAL), and watching the pinpricks of blood pool on my arms as I picked pounds and pounds of wild blackberries.

I was destined to love this book. And I was so glad I did. I could see the Highlands version of Manderley, perched on a hill above a very familiar lake. I heard water spill over the Cullasaja dam and watched it race through rocks on its trek to the Ohio River. The scent of memory filled my nostrils as I browsed the Old Edwards Spa shop for things I couldn’t afford.

I ached to visit Highlands again. Maybe it was because my feet hurt.

But I think it was due to the talent of the writer.

Have you read a great book lately, one that lived up to every single thing you imagined? Please let us know about it in the comments today.

The FIVE STAR reviews keep rolling in. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available in paperback and e-book formats at these outlets: Click to Purchase To Live Forever.

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fiction…Sadly no – well except yours, of course.

    April 18, 2014
  2. I’ve recently finished 6 books during past 2 weeks. They were in Thai language which 4 of them were about travel in Japan. Other two were famous mystery novels translated from Japanese to Thai. They were about this detective named ‘Kindaichi’ who will solve the murder cases in each book. The books were in series which I’ve read all Thai translation version. I really love this series because of Kindaichi’s personality and murder cases’ complexity.

    April 18, 2014
    • I typically enjoy Japanese-to-English translations as well. I’ll have to google this detective and see whether he exists in English (I think Thai is lovely to look at, but I can’t read it. 🙂 )

      April 18, 2014
      • There are two versions of Kindaichi. One is the original novels which were written by Seishi Yokomizo. I talked about this one.

        Another one is Manga which is partially based on the original novel. I also read this one in Thai translation.

        Both novels and manga are really entertaining to read if you like mystery.


        April 18, 2014
  3. “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson was recommended to me a year ago. This is a wonderful novel, psychological thriller, that kept me moving page to page. Definitely a good read.

    April 18, 2014
    • Another one to check out for my To Read list. Thanks, Mary. How are the lines coming?

      April 18, 2014
      • My friend and I were trying to remember lines at the laundromat yesterday and it wasn’t working. Too many distractions. I remember some lines with ease and others are like remembering a foreign language, not sticking in my head. Umm…umm…umm…line, please!

        April 18, 2014
      • Isn’t it the pits that they can just VANISH? I mean, you can know them every which way, and – poof – gone. Onstage, though, those deer-in-the-headlights-I-totally-don’t-know-what-I’m-supposed-to-say looks are priceless. I always thought it was fun to work with the people onstage to try to figure out what to do, when we couldn’t all stop and say, “Crap. Now what do we do?” So, whatever happens live, it will be fun. 🙂

        April 18, 2014
      • That’s what I’m going for…FUN! Stressing out about this is not going to help. By the way, “Poof, gone!” is one of my lines. I had better remember it! 🙂

        April 18, 2014
  4. First the book – I love the entire Highlands area. Would move there in a heartbeat if I could. And if plans work out, hopefully, will be going to a big British car show there in June.

    As for the article on reading… first, thanks for it being short. 😉 Second, I do totally agree with the immersion of deep reading. It is, as the article implied, like being in a zen state of meditation. And it produces a high that can last for hours if not days. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it is missing out, and probably just hasn’t found the right book for them yet.

    April 18, 2014
    • It is the best form of meditation for me. When I try the real kind of meditating, I fall asleep. Every time. 🙂

      April 18, 2014
  5. Your book, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. The latter two were recommended to me. I wondered about all the hype for GUERNSEY and BOOK THIEF. I see why they were highly recommended.

    April 18, 2014
    • I also loved The Book Thief. I liked Guernsey, the story. I was disappointed in the writing, but the story eclipsed it in the end.

      April 18, 2014
  6. Interesting. I’m wearing my lowcountry Harley shirt today. When it comes to literature, coincidence doesn’t exist.

    April 18, 2014
    • If you ever need another one, I’ll be happy to pick one up for you. 🙂

      April 18, 2014
  7. I think I can definitely attest to the effects of our new skim-and-go world. I used to be able to sit and read or write all day long, and in fact spent much of my late teens-early to mid twenties doing so. Now, I’m lucky if I can sit and read a book for more than forty five minutes. I read The Stand in less than a week when I was seventeen. Now I’m thirty and it’s taken me six months to read A Feast for Crows (which, come to think of it, I haven’t picked up in a couple of weeks). Maybe it’s age, I don’t know, but I’ve always got this feeling in the back of my head that I should be doing something other than what I’m doing at any given moment.

    April 18, 2014
    • Our world puts those pressures on everyone, especially when we reach the age where we are building family and career. I hope you’ll let me know how A Feast for Crows is when you finish.

      April 18, 2014
  8. Good article. I liked what they had to say about meditation:

    “Meditation has long been studied to better understand how sustaining attention and focus affects the brain. Studies on mindfulness meditation, for example, show that parts of the brain associated with positive mood are activated with the practice of focusing attention.”

    I have found this to be true. That sustained focus and attention carries over in all areas of life which keeps us from making *snap* judgments about this, that, and the other thing. Instead of reacting to events (using stale beliefs about past experiences), we more mindfully choose how to spend our days.

    April 18, 2014
    • It’s really great that meditation works so well for you, Nancy.

      April 18, 2014
  9. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    Have you read Sarah Addison Allen? She writes fantasy romance. I know it sound icky but it’s really quite good. She’s a local author in western NC and most of her novels are set around here. I’m adding Moonrise to my list. It looks like a good match for one of my book clubs (which I have dubbed my Nicholas Sparks book club – and that should tell you everything!). Happy Friday!!

    April 18, 2014
    • I’ll look her up, Jill. I’m always willing to try something new.

      April 18, 2014
  10. I love Rebecca and this book sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, my reading has been sadly lacking (brain full of mush, what? 🙂 ), but when in doubt or in the need to just retreat and treat my imagination to something akin to a comfy pair of pjs, I hit up Barbara Michaels. I have “Amie Come Home” on my nightstand at the moment.

    April 18, 2014
  11. Considering my already declining mental agility (increased fog), I better adjust my reading habits! I guess eating Kale is not enough! 🙂

    April 18, 2014
    • Have you tried to make kale chips? If I close my eyes, I almost think they’re potato chips (which makes kale eating more palatable……) 🙂

      April 18, 2014
  12. The brain studies are fascinating, Andra. Like you, I worry that my constant multitasking and skim-and-move-on approach is turning my brain to pulp. 😦

    As a side note, my son, who is finishing up his 3rd year of chemical engineering at uni, just announced that he’d like to go to med school after his undergrad. To become a …wait for it… neurologist! He wants to study diseases of the brain.

    On the one hand…holy shit, I couldn’t be more proud. On the other…good grief, this child will be on the payroll forever. 🙂

    ps On my list next is Life After Life. I’ve heard it’s very polarizing. People either love it or they hate it. There is no middle ground.

    April 18, 2014
    • That’s really awesome about your son, Nancy. Expensive, I know, but still. I always enjoy talking with people whose mind bend in ways that mine simply won’t.

      I’ve read Life After Life. I won’t spoil it for you with my own opinion, but I’d love to talk with you after you read it.

      April 18, 2014
    • I havent done any “new” reading in a while. When I have spare time I try and write. Or rewrite. I find proofreading my stories gives me a challenge in grammar, run-on babbling, and story lines that could use a lot of tightening. I miss reading, though. I think it’s time to read someone else’s ideas.

      April 20, 2014
  13. I have mixed feelings about reading books set in locations I know and love as well. I’m still fond of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It’s sad that some of those Minneapolis landmarks are gone. I’m struggling with Vestments by John Reimringer. It’s well written, the characters are solid. They’re just not very likable. He gives driving directions EVERYWHERE (go down Lexington to University…..) I think someone should make a tour of St. Paul bars and churches based on this book.

    April 18, 2014
  14. sounds like a gothic mystery. it’s now on my list, thanks )

    April 18, 2014
  15. tarakianwarrior #

    This: ” rabbit trails of my own imagination ” – love, love, love. Yes, I enjoyed the whole blog but this popped out at me and hit me in the solar plexis. I really love the way you write. It’s a good thing I don’t skim cause I’d miss some treasure.

    April 18, 2014
  16. This from Cassandra King sounds good…precisely the type of book to keep me merrily engaged and disconnected from reality. It’s going on my list. Or my Kindle app.

    Poetry clicks in with my brain the same place music does. And really good poetry makes the hairs on my neck bristle, just as a truly spiritual experience does. (And just as kissing my grandson does.)

    April 18, 2014
  17. Seems appealing, and the cover certainly grabs the attention.

    April 18, 2014
  18. I thought The Giver was pretty good and lived up to my expectations. I read that right before reading The Jungle.

    April 18, 2014
  19. Jen #

    Rebecca keeps popping up in my world. Hmmm… maybe i will read Moonrise. I always look at synchronicity as breadcrumbs to an important message.

    April 20, 2014

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