Reading is an Act of Empathy

Reading good literature makes you a kinder person. More empathetic. More aware of the needs of others. More understanding of the feelings and troubles that people go through.

These ideas have exploded due to an article posted a month ago in The Guardian (read it here). Yet this idea isn't as young as a month old. John Green points it out as one of the main reasons people should read in his Crash Course on English Literature series.

This video was posted by John Green (best author ever) a year ago. One of the main things that struck me was when he says:
Reading is an act of empathy, an act of imagining you are someone else.
Reading not only makes you more empathetic... it is actually an act of empathy itself. As you are reading (Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey don't count, alright?), you are participating in an act of imagination, putting yourself in a character's shoes, and pretending that you are someone else.

Think about the main characters in novels. Most times, they're the underdog, a person who is going through a trial, a teenager struggling with bullying and figuring out life, a rich man who longs for the love of his life, a young adult struggling with a mental illness, etc, etc, etc. Even though in "real life" we might not have experienced these things, reading about them helps us to imagine what they would be like (pretty darn sucky). And when we do encounter people who are going through these things, either in our friend group or someone from our family, we can understand them more because we have peeked inside of the minds of characters in books in similar situations.

Now, I'm not trying to simplify things and say that just because you read about mental illness in a book like Girl, Interrupted you're going to understand every single person that has a mental illness. Obviously, there are a range of illnesses and every person experiences their pain in an individual and unique way.

But the process of delving into someone's mind (thanks, stream-of-consciousness) lets passionate literary nerds be more adept and open to understanding other people.

Finally, an accomplishment I can brag about as an English major.