In a recent conversation someone mentioned that they didn't believe that books could make a difference or changes in people's lives. I found this rather shocking, actually, because I feel that books and stories and poems and songs help to shape our views of the world.
I offer up Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry as a way of seeing how if the fairytales of our youth were different, so might be our perspective on the world. I read poems and see ways to live more completely, more responsibly, and more in tune with the world around me. And if you see the world through the perspective of a holy text, how much more are you shaped by what you read?
I heard a few years ago that medical students were being asked to read humanities texts that detail suffering and the experiences of being sick. The hope was that this would make the students more sensitive to their patients' ordeals. I don't know if it works, but it sounds plausible.
How will we know what others know and have known if we don't read? Unlike reality TV, literature has already been proven to pass the test of time.