Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (2016, William Morrow)

Why read? English author Neil Gaiman (born 1960) gave good reasons in a lecture he delivered at the Reading Agency, a UK charity, in 2013. It is available in print in his collection of selected non-fiction The View from the Cheap Seats that was released earlier this year.

In the talk titled “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming”, Gaiman mentions two big uses of fiction. First is drive – which gives us a sense of purpose, second empathy – which helps build groups. Gaiman explains:

Firstly, it’s [fiction] a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end…that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going.

 

“The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page…that’s a very real drive.” (Photo: Pixabay)

 

This sense of drive derived out of reading could be easily applied to other aspects of life.

Gaiman adds later:

The second thing that fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking to things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

 

“You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. ” (Photo: Pixabay)

 

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

 

You’re also finding out something as you read that will be vitally important for making your way in the world.

It’s this: THE WORLD DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS. THINGS CAN BE DIFFERENT.

 

 


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9 thoughts on “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

  1. I’m a little cautious about intellectuals who try to find a purpose to art. Although their insights are interesting, it feels as if they are ‘kissing up’ to those in positions of power who are either pragmatists or those who dismiss the arts as frivolous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Frank Parker's author site and commented:
    A timely reminder of the importance of libraries and reading. Timely because of the ever present threat of cuts. I have to say I have mixed feelings about plans here in Ireland to operate some libraries and/or some opening hours, ‘staffless’. It is potentially a good thing if it increases the accessibility of the library to readers. Not so good if it means staff cuts so that the help that can only be provided by a passionate librarian is no longer available.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged and commented: A timely reminder of the importance of libraries and reading. Timely because of the ever present threat of cuts. I have mixed feelings about plans here in Ireland to operate some libraries and/or some hours ‘staffless’. Could be a good thing if it increases the accessibility of the library to potential readers. Nor so good if it leads to staff cuts so that the invaluable help of a passionate librarian is curtailed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I worry about the future of libraries, especially here in the US, at least in certain parts of the country. All that knowledge, there for free to all. Literature is very important in so many ways, as mentioned in this piece. We can’t lose our hunger for imagination and creativity.

    Like

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