Most people know reading is good for them. But what does it do to the brain?

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

We hear and read all the time that reading is one of the best habits to develop. Successful people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Emma Watson have touted their insatiable appetites for devouring new information as one of the key ingredients they’ve needed for their achievements. And we all know where that information can be found: in books.

Besides the obvious fact that reading more opens us up to new information and shows us new ways of connecting sets of information, what is not as widely known by most people are the ways reading changes our brains.

Neuroscientific evidence…

The 20th century was a bloodbath of war, genocide, and massacre

The Berlin Holocaust memorial; photo by Dave Kim on Unsplash

Eric Hobsbawm, the historian who taught at Cambridge and Birkbeck, wrote in his 1995 book The Age of Extremes that the 20th century was:

without doubt the most murderous century of which we have record, both by the scale, frequency, and length of the warfare which filled it […] but also by the unparalleled scale of the human catastrophes it produced, from the greatest famines in history to systematic genocide.

When the sources are studied, it is not hard to see how he reached this conclusion. The Holocaust is, in the Western world, the most infamous of the depravities of…

Online publications present unique challenges, but great opportunities

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Writing articles purely for online publications presents unique challenges, but also offers a plethora of great opportunities. The barrier to entry is practically non-existent, but it can take some perseverance, open-mindedness, and practice to make real progress, grow a following, and make money.

From the few years experience I have working as a contributor and editor for a student newspaper, and the three years I spent working in marketing and content-creation and curation for an e-commerce business, I’ve learnt some things the hard way, lessons which I’m happy to share with you all. …

Does it bring about change, or does it just do more harm than good?

Photo by Maria Krisanova on Unsplash

Over recent years, Western cultures have shown a rising tendency to no-platform and cancel those whose views are judged to be offensive, controversial, politically incorrect, and undesirable.

In many cases, the views or the conduct of those who have been “cancelled” have been detrimental. But “cancelling” people who air views which are generally considered detrimental can end up stifling healthy debate.

When cancel culture attacks people for their views, it can end up pushing the “cancelled” to the margins of our societies and cultures. …

It opened for passage in 1869, at the height of Western imperialism

Photo by samuel hanna on Unsplash

The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways in the world for global trade. It connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean basin. This route, therefore, links trade and travel between three continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Suez Canal is located in Egypt, and it was officially opened for commercial passage in 1869.

Work on constructing the Canal began in 1859, and the man typically associated with overseeing operations was a French diplomat named Ferdinand de Lesseps. …

Serious allegations have surfaced about the French philosopher

Author’s image, from the Penguin book Ethics

The Times recently published an article within which allegations were made by the French-American academic Guy Sorman, against fellow French academic Michel Foucault, who died from HIV/AIDS complications in 1984. Sorman alleges that Foucault was a paedophile, who abused prepubescent boys in Tunisia, where he lived and worked in 1969.

Sorman states that he personally witnessed Foucault exchanging money for sex with these boys. Although no victims have yet come forward to substantiate Sorman’s claims, moments from Foucault’s life and work do not reflect favourably on his reputation. …

A platform with a toxic culture has led to toxic solutions

Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

I used Twitter pretty much every day for about 5 years. But eventually, I tired of the fact that I couldn’t communicate properly on there. I got sick of the fact that every time I logged in; I was confronted with hate, misinformation, and trolls.

I decided that turning my back on Twitter was the right thing to do. I abandoned the platform long before they started banning high-profile people for saying distasteful things. …

These are damaging attitudes our societies and cultures could do without

Photo by Diogo Nunes on Unsplash

First of all, let me define what I mean by elitism and classism. By elitism, I refer to the point of view that a section of a population should, by hereditary right or privilege, preserve their prerogative to govern, to maintain their wealth, and to live with power and influence, purely by virtue of their birth into and their membership of monied families.

By classism, I refer to the haughty attitude that a strata, or class, of a population is destined to have power and authority over the rest…

It didn’t start by reading a book a day, or even a book a week

Photo by John Michael Thomson on Unsplash

As a kid, I had always been a pretty big reader. My parents got me into books while I was young, starting off with the typical nursery rhymes and fairy tales before introducing me to some fantastic children’s authors, including Spike Milligan, Dr Seuss, and Roald Dahl. The Twits was my favourite.

As I grew up, well into my early teens, I continued to read other popular books that many other kids were reading too — the Harry Potter series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Spiderwick Chronicles, Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books, Robert Muchamore’s books — name…

Political society and culture is pathological and overemotional at the moment

Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

In today’s English-speaking world, people are not very good at having difficult political conversations. Reconciling differences in opinion people might have through friendly conversation and congenial negotiation is an unfortunately rare phenomenon in today’s political culture. I am sure this is a problem wider than the English-speaking world too.

The nature of the problem is basically this: when people disagree about something at the moment, disagreement tends to be hostile. …

Ed Fernyhough

Cambridge, LSE & Bristol graduate. Write on culture, philosophy, business and politics. Owner of The Retrospective.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store