“We read books to find out who we are.”

Early in a 2012 Talk titled “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”, delivered for The Reading Agency, the fiction writer Neil Gaiman speaks of being in New York and listening “to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.”

One of the reasons to read, and cultivate a love for reading, Neil points out, is that reading fosters empathy.

“When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”

One of the gems in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Shadow of the Wind”: “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have in you.”

The wise Ursula Le Guinn explains in “The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction”: “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel — or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel — is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

Peace 😊

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