Literature holds a significant amount of power to influence people’s lives. If I fail to convince a few students to dive into what literature can offer, I will be depriving them of the opportunity to investigate what the greatest minds of the past have said about the world around them, learn about different cultures and widen their worldview.
When I started my academic career at Northwestern, I had a similar attitude toward reading that many college freshmen hold. Reading is something that I have to do for school and is a massively boring activity. I am not writing this to present with a magic formula that makes class reading assignments more exciting, I am simply showcasing that literature offers much more than written facts to be memorized.
George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald—these are just a few of the greatest minds of the last 200 years. Each of these authors held unique worldviews based on their historical context, upbringing and experiences throughout their lives. Each of these writers offer insights about the world to readers that are willing to undertake reading their works.
Novels can allow readers to see the world through the eyes of the authors that wrote them. Reading the novel of a great author can be a bit like being inside their head or conversing with them through their text. It allows the reader to experience the ideas of some of the greatest minds in history. Reading also helps to build vocabulary and intellect.
Literature gives readers an opportunity to experience different cultures by reading authors from around the world. Most people do not have the budget to travel the world to learn about its many different cultural backgrounds, but they can receive a similar experience through reading the literature of other writers. Obviously, this will not offer the same experience as immersing oneself in a culture for an extended period of time, but diving into an author’s work can help to provide a bit of perspective about that culture.
This can help to expand one’s worldview, especially if readers immerse themselves in literature from around the world, it can expand their knowledge of the world around them.My advice is simple: try to read more books. Find what interests you and read it.
I have tried to articulate above what is lost if you choose to never open a book again after college: the insights of some of history’s greatest minds, unique perspectives about the world and insights into different cultures than one’s own.
Ultimately, reading a great book, discovering a new author or coming across an idea that changes how you see the world are some of the greatest feelings that can be experienced, and a great way to experience them is through literature.