What Literature Can Teach Us

No matter your feelings toward literature and reading, everyone at some point in their life has picked up a book and felt at least something. That’s because literature has the power to teach us countless lessons and information. Here are just a few things literature can teach us:

 

  • About ourselves. Books and the characters within them often hold a mirror up to the reader’s face, begging you to make comparisons and see part of yourself within some character. Relating to characters, questioning their motives, finding yourself angry at certain actions or any range of emotions you feel as you read teach you more about yourself. You are able to see parts of yourself, both the good and bad, in different characters and evaluate why you may have reactions to certain things, teaching you more about your behavior and likes or dislikes as a person.
  • About the human experience. Arguably the most important and prevalent lesson you can learn from literature has to do with the human experience. Reading a quote from a character and having found yourself thinking or saying those very words before, recognizing a fictional plot as a parallel to a point in history, or feeling a character’s same feelings based on similar experiences all deepen our understanding of the human experience. Even when exploring fictional, historical, or far off worlds that exist in literature, the ability to empathize or understand even a fraction of what the characters go through pulls us closer together as humans. Literature grants an equal playing field and allows people to project themselves into worlds they may never experience in real life; but at least they can know their feelings and experiences are not singular.
  • About other cultures and worlds. Books are great tools to use to learn about customs and ways of life completely different than your own. Considering the amount of research an author does and their ability to delve into a particular world, time, or place with rich description, one can learn a lot about other cultures. Historical fiction obviously works best for this, but even completely made-up stories take inspiration from reality on some level.
  • How to write. Any good writer will often cite books as their primary teacher. Reading literature will help you learn style, punctuation, grammar, plot, description, and everything else. Absorbing as much good literature as possible helps you find your place as a writer and offers endless sources of inspiration for how to craft sentences, characters, and whole entire worlds to play in.

 

-Hannah Kotler

 

Photo Credit: Maggi_94 Bibliothek am Steintor-Campus via photopin (license)

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