Can great literature really change your life?

This much I do know: As soon as you stop believing the idea that literature can change your life, or that the greater a story is, the more it will change your life, the stranger it becomes to hear people talking about not reading enough (when was the last time you heard someone say they weren’t watching enough movies or enough TV?) or bewailing the fact that they weren’t reading broadly enough.

I suspect that behind such statements lurks the assumption that reading makes us better people, and the finer the books we read, and the more different kinds of books we read, the better we are—or at least our chances improve. I wish it were true.

Maybe I have the wrong sort of friends, but I’ve never noticed that the people who read lots of novels are better or wiser or more discerning or compassionate than anyone else I know. (There does exist the possibility that they would be even worse people had they never read anything, I suppose.) I have noticed that we readers do have more in common to talk about, but I could say the same if we were baseball fans or foodies.