Reading novels taught President Obama how to live

It’s been interesting reading some of the headlines coming out of Australia and New Zealand in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup final this week. One of the funniest I saw was this one from Fox Sports in Australia.


“The Richetty grub is the master of the dark arts of breakdown cheating,” said the writer. Talk about character assassination! That got me thinking about how many of us read today: in short bursts, skimming headlines, scanning Facebook and Twitter posts, seeking something shocking to read.

We are reading, but does that kind of reading make us better, more well rounded people? Or does it make us something else?

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President Obama recently shared some thoughts about the challenges of reading today. “It’s not so much that people don’t read; it’s that everybody is reading [in] their niche,” he said. “And so often, at least in the media, they’re reading stuff that reinforces their existing point of view.”

Obama says he learned what it means to be a good citizen by reading novels. “When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen … the most important stuff I’ve learned from novels,” he said.


“It has to do with empathy … with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys and the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”


“A premium on the sensational and the most outrageous or a conflict as a way of getting attention and breaking through the noise creates, I believe, a pessimism,” Obama continued. “Because all those quiet, sturdy voices … they’re not heard.”

This week I hope to read more by the quiet, sturdy voices. They give me more hope.

Quotes from http://www.thebookseller.com/news/obama-315565

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