The Power of Literature

As we celebrate World Book Day, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott,1 “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

Stanford University English Professor Paula Moya shares that enthusiasm. In this video, she explains why she loves literature—and that we can all find a book that delights us.

One of the most important functions of literature, Moya explains, is its ability to take us into other minds: the mind of the author and the mind of the characters the author creates. In that way, we can experience the world from different perspectives, different times, and different places.  We can begin to understand how we are alike as well as what sets us apart, for better or for worse.

Such journeys inspire our imaginations and deepen our humanity.

As Emily Dickinson wrote:
“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.”2

So on World Book Day—and every other day—open a book and see where it takes you!

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anchor, 1995.
Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems, Value Proprietary, 1999 (First published 1890)