A friend recently told me of an experience she had in a used book store. She shopped for awhile and found some books that she wanted. When she got to the register, however, she found the only way she could pay was with a check. Have you tried recently to use a check to pay for anything? It just isn’t done anymore.
She asked the owner tentatively if he would take a check and was surprised at his cheerful willingness. She asked him if he wasn’t worried that her check would be returned. His response was, “No. I have never had that happen. I find that readers don’t do that.”
According to this man, readers don’t cheat or steal or leave someone else holding the bill. I really want to believe that is true. In fact, there is a part of me that isn’t even surprised that this was that book shop owner’s experience. But if it is true that readers are inherently more honest that the general public, what is it that makes them so? Can we really measure the character of a man or woman by their reading habit? And is one type of reading more revealing than another?
Does a study of the classics translate into a higher moral code?
If a person reads mysteries or intrigue, he or she wants the murderer or crook to be caught and punished in the end. Does this desire for good to prevail and justice to be meted translate into actions in the reader’s life?
I’ve often thought that most of the fantasy genre, the best of it anyway, is an exploration of good vs. evil, often through a quest. And we love when the protagonist wins against often impossible odds. When we read fantasy, do we come to prize the good in a deeper way? To value it even in situations where it would be easy to get away with bad behaviors?
Does a reader of history become more determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and see past heroes as models? Does the study and understanding of philosophy bring greater virtue?
When a reader of a romance sighs when love heals all wounds and conquers all, does he or she become more loving?
What do you think? What do you think reading has done to form your character? Are there particular benefits you get from particular kinds of books?