Literature is a strand of humanity that has stretched for thousands of years. It is defined as written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. It’s not just for academia, though, because it offers a huge amount of wisdom to anybody willing to read it. There are authors from the vast recesses of time and space that you can discover, from The Book of Genesis to The Tale of Genji to The Grapes of Wrath. Every piece of literature contains pearls of wisdom that are meant to be considered, discussed and absorbed.
Literature Comes From Everywhere
There are so many different literary voices, depicting scores of viewpoints, victories, conundrums, conflicts and other human situations and no nation or group of people has ownership over it. Indeed, there is a list of Great Books that features authors from various countries and writing through various lenses of the human experience, from politics to philosophy to religion to economics.
Literature Explores Decision-making Scenarios
Hamlet can teach you something about decision-making. Financial experts know that student loans can be tricky because there are lots of things to consider, such as what you need at the moment and what you might have to pay in the future. The tragedy of Hamlet is the story of a young man who endured this very transferable scenario. For him, it wasn’t about borrowing money to pay for his education. Rather, it was about avenging his father’s death. Hamlet’s story invokes the question: what should you do when today’s actions might drastically affect tomorrow?
Literature Captures Time & Place, for Your Benefit
Great literature captures experiences that you may or may not have had. The war genre communicates that most miserable human endeavor from just about any angle you can think of. Whether you’re reading about Tolstoy’s Pierre, who wanders the bloody Russian landscape, enchanted by the beauty he perceives, only to find himself in the midst of battle or Tim O’Brien, whose metafiction showed readers the surreal cruelty of the Vietnam War, you come to understand war the way non-participants can.
Norman Mailer, who set out to write the perfect war novel, brought readers to the Pacific Theatre during World War II, where they saw how war is often so many hours of anxiety-inducing boredom that surround moments of intensely terrifying fighting. He also showed readers how difficult it is for a nation to create an army of so many disparate personalities and how sometimes, the threat doesn’t come from the enemy, but from your own people.
Literature Can Help You See the Future
John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. His works show America as it was in the early part of the 20th century and how men and women operated during those trying times. In Flight, he shows readers how bad things happen when a country boy goes to town for the first time and gets overwhelmed by alcohol and his own blushing ego. In Of Mice and Men, he shows what people must do when there are no more tenable choices. In The Grapes of Wrath, he shows how entire regions of people lose everything and are forced to leave their homes and start fresh with nothing.
These scenarios come up in life, from time to time. Youth will always struggle to understand how the elements of life, like temper and aggression, can backfire. People will always have to figure out how to say goodbye to their loved ones. Disease, drought and famine can challenge governments and the individuals beneath their umbrellas at any time. Literature shows people how to proceed.
For as long as there has been conflict in the world of human beings, there have been talented authors seeking to capture it, study it and report its nature, through their works, to the world. Literature preserves antiquity in a way that nothing else could. It has built religions and helped to spotlight egregious human behavior, like racism, jealousy and obsession. When people read and strive to understand the experiences presented to them through literature, they become more expansive thinkers. There is a lot that literature can teach you about how to live in the world today.