Reading Right Books
Anna Delianidi is an expert in the field of modern literature and reading practices. She knows for sure that books can have a tremendous impact on a person’s consciousness and spiritual state. Anna Delianidi jointly with the Global Talents web-portal of supplementary education launched a series of webinars for schoolchildren called Literature as a System. Immediately after the first webinar, the Global Women Media news agency interviewed the expert about why and how to read right books.
philologist, specialist in modern literature and reading practices
The Global Talents website’s series of webinars on literature is an online communication between the expert and schoolchildren from different regions of Russia. According to Anna Delianidi, she plans to speak about the basics of the theory and history of literature with the project participants during the online meetings. She also hopes to delve into the most interesting literary works included in the school programme.
At the same time webinars, are completely different from the usual school lessons. Although the programme of online meetings includes many works that are studied from 5th to 11th school grades, the webinars will be about those nuances of the humanities that often remain unnoticed.
For Anna Delianidi, it was fundamentally important that the webinars had a format making it possible to find answers to deep and serious questions interesting to today’s schoolchildren.
Anna Delianidi’s approach is interesting thanks to the fact that the expert proposes to consider literature as a system, through which people see the world around them. From her point of view, it is a mathematically precise science that has a tremendous impact on people.
– How can reading change a person?
– Reading certainly changes a person for the better. It has a very powerful effect on our brain: it strengthens our neural networks. If we do sports, yoga, and other physical exercises to stay physically fit, reading is the best way to maintain and develop our neural networks in the brain. In both cases, to achieve the desired results, it is necessary to increase the load constantly.
To strengthen your muscles, you need to constantly increase the weight and intensity of your strength exercises. To strengthen your neural networks, you need to increase the volume and complexity of the books that you read.
It is impossible to develop by staying at the same level of reading. If we want to benefit from books, we must gradually move towards more in-depth works that require the utmost concentration. This can be non-fiction books, philosophical texts, and complex fiction.
Such progressively more complex reading is a training of the human mentality.
It is very easy to figure out people who read a lot or don’t read at all in conversation. The variety of the used means of language and the ease of articulating thoughts are the main indicators of our interlocutor’s intellectual depth and interests.
– We live in a world with an infinite flow of information. How to choose the right book to read? Is all literature useful?
– It is important to understand what is meant by the word ‘literature’. If we mean not a wide range of books including fiction but only high-quality texts that can survive their time and be of interest to future generations, then yes, absolutely any literature is useful.
How to choose the right book in the enormous flow of information? I would ask this question differently: how to correctly select books on the shelf? The competent system of reading assumes the study of 1-2 literary works per month on average for an adult and fairly busy person. We ‘swallow’ some books overnight, and read some books for months because they are more difficult, require more serious work, or do not resonate with our soul.
Anyway, we have good compasses to navigate in the world of Russian literature today. These are the current literature-related awards: Big Book, National Bestseller, Yasnaya Polyana, and others.
If you compare the winning authors, you can see that the picture is relatively the same in all literary awards over the past 10-15 years. Based on such lists, one can understand what writers are of interest to the world and the professional cultural community today.
Awards in the field of literature today are a sphere with no corruption because it is simply impossible there. Readers determine a lot in this field. The jury members are worthy representatives of culture and leading experts who are guided by their own feeling and see well what works can and should represent the voice of the Russian literature.
– How to maximize the effect of reading?
– The effect of reading depends much on the degree to which the reader is immersed in the text. Next, one should wait for a certain amount of time to reflect on the text after reading it. Then it becomes easier to form deeper and more serious thoughts, to bring to the surface those details and plot points that may have been missed in the process of reading.
It is absolutely impossible to fully and soberly evaluate a piece of literature immediately after reading it. It is important to let the sediment sink in so that the water becomes clear.
One can get an even more profound effect from reading when returning to the piece of literature for a second time. The central core of literature lies in the interpretation of the text depending on so many factors. The way how one perceives a book today may be very different from how one will perceive it a week, a month, or years later. That depends on our inner state, mood, life experience, level of personal development, and circumstances.
When rereading the book, we see the layers that we may not have noticed the previous time. The most interesting thing about literature is that this ‘trick’ can happen to the same book many times. That can be clearly seen on the example of reading The Master and Margarita by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. The book can be reread as many times as you want. You will perceive it in a completely new way every time.
– The course of webinars for the Global Talents is a unique original project worked out by you. How did this idea appear? Why is it important for you to interact with the younger generation?
– The Global Talents website itself gave me the inspiration for creating the course. I have great respect for those projects that offer high-quality and interesting products for schoolchildren. Especially if the project’s team puts a lot of effort and energy and also a part of their soul into it.
Today’s children and teenagers are our future. The opportunity to talk with them and influence them to some extent is a huge part of social responsibility for me.
I like that the Global Talents project team shares this responsible, soulful, and creative approach. The web-portal regularly hosts contests, actions, and webinars by experts in a variety of fields. These activities help children from all over Russia fulfil their creative and intellectual potential. I was happy that, as an expert, I could contribute to that great cause. This is how the idea of the Literature as a System webinar series appeared. I hope that this is the first but not the last project that we implement together with the Global Talents team.
Within my course, I would like to show schoolchildren literature from a new perspective: as a passage into a completely unimaginable artistic world and as a magical tool of the most powerful influence on our thinking and consciousness. I think this is the only way to educate readers who will study works not because they ‘have to’ but to satisfy their sincere interest, to delve deeper into the subject, and to understand complex issues.
– How to instil an interest in reading in children? After all, the modern generation is more and more immersed in new technologies. They prefer other digital formats to reading...
– This is quite a controversial statement. I would even say that it is a stereotype, which was formed a few years ago and is firmly entrenched in society. Our world is changing rapidly. The things that were true five years ago require revision and rethinking today.
Who says that today’s teenagers don’t read? They do read, and they do it with great passion!
My colleagues and I regularly conduct research on this topic. We bring together special focus groups and ask teenagers what they read. Probably the answers we get from students might surprise their teachers. The younger generation is very interested in contemporary literature including those authors we used to consider those for adults. For example, Stephen King has long been one of the authors most often read by young people.
Classical literature is more difficult for teenagers. Those are pieces of literature that are far from them in terms of time. In school years, the children still do not have enough experience and wisdom to understand the depth and meaning of these works or feel the power of these brilliant texts.
Of course, classical literature is necessary to be read. However, it will be much more effective if everyone rereads such texts as adults.
Returning to contemporary literature, I would like to emphasize that today we have quite a few examples of quality texts for teenagers. In their books, authors talk to children about very serious things: overcoming fear and anxiety, reacting to different stressful situations, communicating properly with peers, and coping with difficulties. Those topics are relevant to this emotionally difficult age. This is especially important for teenagers because they are often embarrassed to talk about it with adults and have to experience everything within themselves.
How to interest children in reading? I can definitely say that any violent ways will be absolutely useless.
Children today enjoy reading modern literature. To recommend them the ‘right’ books, adults must also understand what the world of modern literature is and what is happening in the market of books by Russian-speaking writers for teenagers.
– What books would you advise women to read so that they can cultivate the qualities that could help change the world in themselves and their children?
– This is a very deep question. I am very grateful for it because today’s world really needs global change. Today, humanity faces a situation, in which we just need to stop, look around, rethink our values, and choose the path toward the future that we want for our children.
I believe that detachment and, to some extent, indifference are among the main problems of our time. People are less and less likely to ask others whether they need help and rarely want to learn about the reasons for their sadness. They are less likely to empathize and sympathize.
We increasingly often see an ‘emotional shutdown’ that is not easy to turn back on.
In fact, such a ‘turn-on button’ is a very complex and multifaceted mechanism. However, reading the ‘right’ books is one of the tools that can give a powerful impetus to triggering such a mechanism.
I mean literature that can open people’s hearts, soften their souls, and develop the best human qualities in them. These are stories about friendship, love for life and for the world around us, trust and honesty, and faith in oneself.
Modern literature is very diverse. Fortunately, we can choose from a huge variety of those books that correspond to our values in life. The main thing to choose consciously.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov