The importance of literature is immense, what you learn will change your perception of the world and how you interact with people by using a wealth of literary devices such as tone, mood, and figurative language. You will be able to share your ideas and thoughts in better ways through writing that conveys meaning clearly to your reader. The best part is that you won’t even realize when you’ve started learning all these aspects. Reading literature will seep into your mind and work almost by osmosis!
What Do We Mean By Literature
Let’s define terms first: ‘literature’ means any collection of written work, but it tends to refer to writing produced with artistic intent: novels, plays, poems, and essays. In this way, literary work differs from – for example – journalism, business, or technical writing.
Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.Boris Pasternak
Be a Better Communicator and Writer
The fact is that people who read a lot of literature are better 21st Century communicators. This might seem ironic, given the multitude of technology and media that surround us.
Reading gives you access to so many different points of view that you can understand different perspectives and make up your own thoughts and feelings about them.
People who get involved with literature – reading, writing, or both – have an advantage because they’re better at getting to the point or expressing themselves. If you’ve ever been in the situation of arguing a point or explaining something complex, all that practice will help you communicate.
Your communication will benefit both in terms of your written communications, and how effectively you can express your thoughts and feelings verbally.
Reading literature also helps you develop a sense of perspective about the way other people see the world, and helps you understand their point of view more clearly. All this will make you a better communicator, and it will make you a better writer, too.
Gain a Better Understanding of the World
Literature helps us understand others and the world around us. Works of literature are windows on other worlds, and windows on the worlds of others.
When we read books written by people from other backgrounds, we learn about and accept other cultures and ideas. We can learn about ways of doing things that are different from our own. This gives us a broader perspective and helps us think about things in a new way.
In my opinion, as we live in an increasingly globalized world, it is all the more important to retain sensitivity to its great diversity. Literature from other countries and cultures helps us do that.
By reading and discussing world literature, and investigating different literary genres, we gain an understanding not only of the authors’ ideas but also of the cultural and historical context in which the ideas originated.
It’s not only English literature or American literature that holds all the pearls, by the way. These days, you can find great translations of important literary works from:
- Chinese literature
- Latin American literature
- French literature
and many other literary traditions.
Get New Insights Into What Seemed Familiar
Conversely, it’s important to read books written by people who come from similar backgrounds to ours so they can give us perspectives we may not have considered before.
Related: Why Books Are Important.
Literature helps us understand and relate to others who’ve had experiences similar to our own, such as illness or family problems (just as reading about the loss of another person helped me process my own). It helps us to give our own real-life meaning.
When you read a work of literature, you can experience things that don’t happen in your life, and you can see yourself in different situations. You also learn about how people have dealt with problems throughout history, which can help you solve your own problems.
You’ll take a deep dive into human nature, and its many mysteries.
Language is an incredibly important part of the quest by humans for our identity. Therefore, as ‘linguistic beings’ literature is naturally a high expression of the human personality, every bit as much as painting or music.
Cultivate Empathy for Others
Literature enables us to develop empathy and understanding for others, which contributes to our social skills. It gives us a chance to imagine and live out in our minds social situations even though we may never experience them directly.
A famous academic study in 2013 (Kidd and Castano) found that literature increases empathetic skills more than nonfiction and popular fiction – perhaps because of the more complex character featured in literary works.
It is one of the important facets of literature that it explores the internal world of human life – the thoughts and feelings – of its characters in a way that visual and auditory media such as films and theater cannot. This is because character development in writing relies much more heavily on internal portrayal rather than external expression.
By connecting with the human experience of others, you enrich your own. Literature enables us to better understand what it is to be a human being.
Benefits of Literature in Education
It’s great to get kids excited about literature. Many children are social misfits and loners because they’ve difficulty forming bonds with others. When kids read about people who’re different from them, they begin to develop empathy and understanding for others. This can then be transferred to real life: children can better understand their classmates at school and make friends more easily.
Kids who read more children’s literature in high school show better social skills than children who don’t.
People who are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers can also benefit greatly from literature. It’s noteworthy that many leading physicists, for example, are also avid readers of literature.
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.C. S. Lewis
Helps You Be More Creative
Literature can help you become more creative and improve “thinking outside the box.”
The most obvious reason for this is that literature by its very nature is an exercise in creativity, and relies on the imagination and curiosity of its readers to function. Ask any group of twenty readers of a piece of literature how they would describe the main character, and you’ll get twenty different responses! Readers enjoy thinking up their own scenarios (what the characters will do next) or plots (the way the story will be resolved, for example).
Literary fiction often leans heavily on the use of symbolism, allegory, and metaphor to project its power. All of which demands significant amounts of creativity on the part of the authors and their readership.
In this way, literature functions as an immediate and direct appeal and stimulus to our creativity.
No matter what your career goals are, creativity is a valuable skill. Most professions require you to think outside the box and find innovative solutions to problems; in fact, in some professions, such as art and design, it’s mandatory!
Reading classic literature has been shown to improve creative thinking and the ability to come up with new ideas. Even if you don’t immediately become an artist or designer by reading literature, it can help you become more creative and improve your lateral thinking.
It Helps Critical Thinking Also
Literature may also improve critical thinking skills. You have to spot the flaws in a story, analyze its plot, and figure out the motivations and meaning of the characters.
One important area where literature can help us reflect and find solutions is the area of human conflict.
A literary text is a playground to examine ideas and causality between them – why and how one thing follows another.
An Essential Part of Creative Writing Skill
If engaged in any kind of creative writing, then reading and studying literature to at least some degree is a must. You will learn a huge amount about character motivation, story structure, etc.
It’s well worth reading both classic literature and modern literature.
Develop a Better Memory
Reading can help you remember things better. When we read, our brains process the information we take in.
Literature, especially, with all its plot twists, flashbacks, foreshadowing, character arcs, and so on is like a playground for the mind and memory.
Poetry, with its rhythms and rhymes, can help your own associative mental processes. If using something like the Memory Palace technique, for example, then lines and ideas from poetry can be useful in the linking of objects in the rooms of your memory palace to something you wish to remember.
When people reading poetry have their brains scanned, the regions linked to memory and daydreaming are shown to increase activity.
Related: Memory Palaces
Improve Your Vocabulary
A wider vocabulary is beneficial for all aspects of your life, from school to work.
Reading literature increases your vocabulary and improves your understanding of language. The more you read, the better you can use words and choose the right ones for each situation.
The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.Robert Louis Stevenson
A good practice is to use a dictionary and thesaurus when you study literature. Not only will this help your precise understanding of what the author wanted to say (especially with more high-flown works) but it will also serve you to improve your own vocabulary and language use.
This skill leads to better communication with others, as you can better explain yourself and help others understand new ideas.
A large vocabulary can also help you with your writing. If you know how words are used in different contexts, you’ll find it easier to use them in your own work. And if you’ve access to a wide range of words, you’ve many more options than if you were limited by a weak vocabulary.
Enhance Your Ability to Concentrate
There are so many distractions all around in everyday life. Not the least of which are the screens that surround us every minute of the day.
The great thing about settling in with a book is that, unlike a computer screen, a book has only one purpose – to take you somewhere. Once you have engaged with the words, it’s almost impossible to stop reading. Reading literature improves your concentration, so you’re less distracted by your surroundings and therefore more effective in your work.
Whenever you find yourself losing focus, why not try grabbing the latest book on your list. Personally, I use a Kindle to read – one of the things I love about it is the bookmark feature, meaning that a page I’m reading can be bookmarked for later. Sometimes, weeks or months later.
Or pick up a short story if pushed for time.
Alongside a detrimental effect on your work or learning, constant distractions increase your stress. And not in a healthy way. Therefore, reading literature not only helps you concentrate – it helps you relax at the same time!
An Opportunity to Interact With Family and Friends
Literature provides an opportunity to have a meaningful and deep conversation with family and friends.
Works of literature normally take on meaningful and important subjects. Consequently, your family and friends will be interested in what you have to say about the topic.
The topics can be as broad as religion, philosophy, politics, and so on, or as specific as Dickens’s David Copperfield or Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
This kind of interaction doesn’t only have to be in person, of course. Sites like Goodreads are great to shoot the breeze with fellow readers, and exchange not only reviews of stuff that you have read, but also get into a discussion about the themes and motivations of the books.
Or you can find a local book club on Meetup, for example.
Helps Your Profile and Career
Not all motivations for reading literature are altruistic!
Reading good literature makes you more cultured and enables you to exchange and project the ideas you’ll find within it at work, and on your social profiles. Whether you are a student, or already in the world of work.
In modern society, knowledge is power, and insight is even more powerful. Books contain information that takes years to acquire firsthand; they contain advice and wisdom from people who’ve been in a similar situation before; they also open up whole new worlds: in your imagination, in other works of fiction like stories and poems, or in nonfiction like biographies or travelogues of fictional novels.
You don’t need to be an English major to benefit!
Examples of Important Literature
- The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag
- Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky
- Teta by Barassa
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- Passage to India by E.M. Forster
- Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Prelude by William Wordsworth
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- King Lear by William Shakespeare