Concisely and poignantly, DeMuth reviews from a Christian perspective a handful of reasons why reading fiction has lasting value: it draws us into community; it reveals our own hiding places; it deepens our understanding of truth; it pulls us out of ourselves.
“I’ve better understood (and wept over) genocide after reading stories,” DeMuth says. “My prayers have deepened for those experiencing human trafficking. Why? Because a novel took me to places my visa wouldn’t take me; novels widened my American-centric view of the world.”
Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate the novel’s ability to undercut even Priceline in making “travel,” or at least exposure to another culture, available to the masses. (Not to mention the fact that airplanes have yet to master time travel).
Empathy is often the first step toward inspiration to act or seek change, and stories are ideally suited to foster empathy.
In her conclusion, DeMuth again underlines the active nature of fiction, saying, “Some novels have destroyed lives, wreaked havoc. But there are novels that have instigated revolutions, restored hope, enacted life-giving legislation.”
It is true: humans, not books, effect change. However, it is equally true that what we read can have a profound impact on the kind of change we choose to effect.