How Literature Can Change Your Life

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If you’re reading this, you likely already know that literature is amazing. Think back to all the experiences you’ve had curling up with a book, the people you’ve known in these fictional worlds, the places the tales have taken you, the memories you have implanted in your brain all because someone put pen to paper.

Literature is about creating something purely out of words. And in that way, it’s magic.

But while you can know all this deep down, have you ever really asked yourself the question: how can literature change your life?

For book lovers and writers, the question makes you stop for a second. How can you even ask that?

Well, we’re asking. Why? Because taking time to really think about it makes us fall in love all over again with the written word. We won’t cover everything, but let’s look at some of the major ways that literature can change your life.

Reading Makes You More Empathic

It’s true. Reading, and reading fiction in particular, makes us better at working out what other people are thinking and feeling. A 2015 study by Diana Tamir at the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab showed that reading fiction exercises the part of the brain we use to empathize with others.

So in a way, all you beautiful readers out there are gaining ESP with every novel you pick up.

In the complex and multicultural world we live in, empathy is more important than ever. But it’s the core of the human experience, even in the best of times. As long as we are lucky enough to be on earth, we share it with others. Reading literature makes that a joy rather than a burden.

What You Read Is Also About What You Aren’t Reading

Here is one of the newest benefits to reading literature: it keeps us away from other forms of pastimes that are making us more anxious and depressed. The biggest one is social media, the place where confidence and attention spans go to die.

It can be hard to parse out whether social media causes depression or people who are depressed tend to use social media more. But growing evidence is pointing to the idea that these platforms are hurting our life satisfaction.

Reading not only helps us avoid the dreaded FOMO and endless comparison to others that social media brings, it also helps keep our attention spans.

By not entering into the dopamine-hacking scroll that is your feed, you are protecting your ability to think about the same thing for a prolonged period of time. So yeah, you beautiful readers are also becoming geniuses.

Reading Literature Expands Your Mind

Maybe the most important part of literature is its ability to transport us into the mind of another person. You can pull out your phone and take a video of the room around you, and it will almost perfectly document what the room looks and sounds like right now.

But it won’t tell someone else what it was like for you to be in the room.

Literature is a portal into other people. It allows us to break down the doors of our culture, identity, and personal past. It brings us into close connection with others — allowing us to see all the horror, honor, and awe lurking in the human experience.

It shuttles you off into different time periods (even the future!) and places. A library card is free, and it unlocks the ability to expand your mind into the cosmos, hopping around like a mystical being able to inhabit the minds of others. That’s truly psychedelic.

Ultimately, if reading fiction did nothing but engross us in beautiful language and fantastic tales, we’d still do it. But when we recount only a few of the benefits literature provides, it reminds us just how amazing it is we get to read at all.

So what are you waiting for? Get reading!


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Jonathan Clark

Jonathan Clark is a writer and farmer living in the Burnt Over District of New York. His writing includes fiction, poetry, criticism, and the occasional screed. You can find more of his work at https://www.jonathanclark.net

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