Well, yes and no – it depends on the book.
According to a 2005 University of Toronto study, reading fiction is linked to social skills like empathy and awareness. But non-fiction? Not so much.
The study was correlational, not causal, so we can’t say for sure that our reading matter makes us more or less socially adept.
I can see how reading fiction could boost people skills. After all, reading a novel gets you right into a character’s head – you experience ‘first hand’ another person’s feelings and cogitations, tuning you in to the depth of their internal life. It makes sense that your social insight would be cultivated.
On the other hand, it could go in the other direction, with socially skilled people simply choosing to read more fiction. That would still be interesting. Perhaps reading fiction is a way to hone the skill, or perhaps it’s pleasurable to flex a strong empathy muscle.
Regardless of direction, there’s a link between reading stories and getting on with others. So it can’t hurt every now and then to put down your Q Is for Quantum Particle Physics and pick up A is for Alibi.