The Benefits of Reading Stories

“Stories serve important functions in the lives of individuals and societies. The most obvious one is entertainment. What makes stories entertaining? One answer lies in their power of transport. The genius of narrative is its ability to remove us from the physical world around us and plant us in an imaginary world replete with its own places, characters, and events. This occurs easily because stories unfold as a sequence, creating their own momentum, drawing us in and placing us under their enchantment. The phenomenon expressed by the familiar phrase ‘lost in a book’ is preeminently true of stories.

“While we intuitively enjoy a book without necessarily thinking about what produces the pleasure, we can also notice delightful techniques. A story’s aesthetic pleasure lies in seeing and relishing creative skill and its beauty. We admire a storyteller’s inventiveness in crafting captivating scenes, characters, and episodes. The author’s way with words and chosen prose style can generate pleasure.

“A further function emerges when we consider why we tell stories. John Shea has written that ‘we turn our pain into narrative so we can bear it; we turn our ecstasy into narrative so we can prolong it.’ People feel a strong compulsion to tell about their experiences. What characterizes the story we share when a friend or spouse asks how our day went? The story is selective and interpretive. We speak of having had a good or bad, boring or challenging day. Our story is more condensed than the day’s experiences, and we highlight important aspects. These traits are equally true of the literary stories we read. They too are simplified and organized, silhouetting important material with heightened clarity.”

Taken from the new book from Crossway (2021) titled Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful (pp.82-83). I continue to make my way chapter by chapter through this book and am highly appreciating its wonderful perspective on and incentive to reading. The above section from chapter 7, “Reading Stories: Tell Me a Story,” is another example. Have you read any good stories lately? (Don’t forget the Bible is full of them – God’s true stories centered on His Son, our Savior!)

Published in: on August 3, 2021 at 9:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

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