Friday, September 7, 2012
Why Reading Matters
“I’m pregnant,” she said. “This book really helped me understand why my boyfriend acted the way he did when I told him.”
The bell rang, and she was gone—before I could thank her and tell her that what she had said was spot-on, not to mention the reason why I read and write fiction.
A good novel, one that presents life in all of its complexities, opens a door through which you enter the mind of someone who is not you. It makes you privy to the “whys” behind the faces characters presents to the world, which bring insights to the why the people in your real life behave the way they do—as it did for the girl in that class.
A good novel can also help you understand yourself. It can help you see the difference between the person you know you are inside and the person people perceive you to be because of the way you behave. It can make you braver, more willing to take a chance on someone. It can make you feel less lonely, knowing there others out there, struggling to make sense of life, as you are.
Best of all, reading good novels makes you curious about the human condition. You become less likely to make instant judgments about people, more likely to figure out why people do what they do less. Curiosity almost invariably begets compassion—and, together, they trump hate every single time.
I’m sorry to say that life has made me cynical about a number of things. But I will always, always believe that if we all read, thought about, talked about, and shared good novels, the world would be a kinder place.