“In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself,” said C. S. Lewis (An Experiment in Criticism).
It’s why I enjoy it so much. Great biographies, memoirs, novels, all let me travel places I’ll never travel and become people I’ll never become. Both experiences spill over with adventure.
Just this spring, I’ve climbed some of the highest peaks in Alaska and sailed in some of the roughest waters of the Tasman Sea. And, just last night, I spent an hour dodging Nazis in Hitler’s Germany.
But, while I do it for the adventure, Lewis’ quote also points to a couple of other benefits to reading. Becoming a thousand men broadens me. Makes me realize my own little world is not all there is. Others have ideas that beg looking into. Which leads to a final point.
Some of those ideas I’ll own. And I’ll be different from who I was before I read them. Which doesn’t mean I’ll become a clone of other people. Just the opposite.
Reading great literature makes us more ourselves because, with each new book, we become even more complex and unique. As Lewis put it, “I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.”