What’s the point in reading? “What good are novels, poetry, and other types of imaginative literature—except perhaps as escapes from our present miseries?” [...]
What literature offers us then are alternate visions of life. [...]
Literature can help us appreciate more the beauty and goodness that are there for the seeing, if only we train our eyes to see. [...]
At a time when the United States and the world generally seems as confused, intolerant, and without answers as ever, any steps forward out of our Babel-like existence toward more mutual understanding are to be welcomed. Moreover, Matthew Arnold was correct, culture (in the sense of higher learning), especially literature, can be a “great help out of our present difficulties.” It can help us see that the inane ads that constantly urge us to purchase more and pursue a false “American Dream,” as well as much of our mass-media culture that is driven by the profit motive, are dead ends. Concern about culture is not a frivolous matter in our troubled world. In an interview printed in 1977 Ralph Ellison, who did much to enlighten us on race relations, said, “While others worry about racial superiority, let us be concerned with the quality of culture.” First-rate literature can stretch our minds and our sympathies and bring us closer to experiencing the beauty, goodness, and truth that humanity’s best minds have always sought.
If concern about culture is not something that propels us to read, we can always look at reading from a more pragmatic point of view, to find the “clear link between reading for pleasure and gaining a good job”:
“The research, by Mark Taylor of Nuffield College, Oxford University, analysed the responses of 17,200 people born in 1970 who gave details of their extra-curricular activities at age 16, and their jobs at age 33.
The findings show that 16-year-olds who read a book at least once a month were “significantly” more likely to be in a professional or managerial position at the age of 33 than those who did not read.
For girls, there was a 39% probability that they would be in a professional or managerial position at 33 if they read at 16, compared to a 25% chance if they had not.
Amongst boys, there was a 58% chance of being in a good job at 33 if they had read as a teenager, compared to a 48% chance if they had not.
The research also looked at after-school activities including sports, socialising, going to the cinema, concerts or museums, cooking and sewing, but found that none of these had an impact on careers.”