Retiring BYU book reviewer Richard H. Cracroft published, this past summer, a beautiful tribute to the power of reading, titled No Good Stopping Place. We (Revgeorge and I–he suggested I write this post) recommend the entire piece as a worthy read.
At the end of the article, the good Professor lists five blessings of reading. While counting the benefits of reading is not a new idea, Professor Cracroft’s list seems particularly insightful, covering the power of books to “enable us to live more lives than the one allotted” and to “see… solutions where we presently see only dilemmas”. He distills most of the usual benefits such as reduced stress and improved vocabulary into “books sweeten, nourish, brighten, and enrich our lives”, and though not every reader will identify with his #5, most will see some way in which books can aid the spiritual life.
His points #2-4 about empathy, self-ordering, and finding solutions all bring quite a bit of weight to bear on our interpretations of Harry Potter. Much of fan discussion and literary interpretation has focused on the ways in which Harry helps us become better people (John Granger’s comments about being “trained in the stock responses” come to mind) and on understanding and loving the Other; also, Rowling’s own Harvard address spoke of “the power to imagine better” primarily through empathy.
We doubt if any Potter fan would deny having grown in these areas through these books. Which means, of course, that we’ve also found Harry Potter enriching (Professor Cracroft’s point #1), and for those of us who believe, we’ve surely found them helpful in spiritual discernment (#5).
Potential topics for discussion in the comments:
- What have the books taught you?
- Would you add anything to Professor Cracroft’s list?
- What other books have influenced you in these ways?
- Other thoughts…?