If you are in the habit of reading, you have probably wondered what the functions of books are in addition to entertaining readers. And in fact, literature goes far beyond entertainment.
Over the centuries, it has had different roles, such as recording historical facts and even influencing the thinking of a given period. In other words, it is an important instrument for society.
Do you want to better understand what literature is for, what are its main functions and importance throughout history? 🤔 Then read on and find out.
What literature is and what it is for
Literature can be defined as text narratives that represent reality , convey ideas and reflect the culture and customs of a society.
It is, therefore, an instrument of communication, art and knowledge transmission.
If you want to understand what literature is for, it is important to make a brief historical review.
The storytelling has been around since the dawn of mankind, and literature is one of the ways in which these narratives are transmitted.
It is also not difficult to understand the diverse functions of literature in history and its close relationship with the advances of society .
In fact, transforming the relationship between humans and the world is the most relevant impact of writing in history, as stated by Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestseller Sapiens: A brief history of humanity (Companhia das Letras).
What is literature for in society?
Literature has several functions in society. Below, we highlight the main ones:
1. To promote diversity
When we talk about society, it is important that all groups are represented through culture.
This is, therefore, one of the functions of the literature: to promote diversity and representativeness.
In social terms, diversity makes it possible to break stereotypes and prejudices and develop a more harmonious coexistence among citizens.
2. To promote empathy
Another important function of literature is to promote empathy: the ability of one person to put himself in the place of another who has a reality different from his own.
The reader who is willing to enter new stories enriches his own reality and expands horizons.
Think about your last reading. The character was probably quite different from you and was immersed in another context, right?
Still, were you able to understand how he felt and what challenges he needed to meet?
If you answered yes, it was thanks to the exercise of empathy practiced through reading.
3. To make social criticism
If you are in the habit of reading, you may have realized that literature is an instrument of social criticism.
Often, books act as a wake-up call to social and political problems and the dangers of authoritarianism.
Therefore, reading is also an exercise that develops critical thinking and reflection on important topics.
It is not for nothing that great classics make social denunciations. This is the case, for example, with the Animal Revolution , by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 , by Ray Bradbury.
What is literature for in people’s lives?
At the individual level, literature also plays an essential role. Here are the main functions that the book can have in your life:
1. To travel without leaving home
It is impossible for you not to feel anywhere else when you take a book in your hands. In fact, literature allows you to travel without leaving your home.
Through books, you have the opportunity to explore scenarios from all corners of the world. All this thanks to the exercise of imagination caused by reading.
2. For fun and relaxation
Fun and relaxation are also functions of literature that cannot be left out of the list.
In fact, reading even contributes to reducing day-to-day stress.
After all, is there anything better than coming home after a day at work and relaxing with a good book in hand? If you have never done this, take the test!
3. To prevent brain disease
Did you know that reading is an exercise that prevents brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s ?
A study by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows that reading contributes to slower cognitive decline.
This is just one of the benefits of reading . Well, your health is also grateful for including literature in everyday life.
4. To discover new cultures
If you can travel without leaving your home, you can also get to know different cultures through literature.
Imagine you, a Brazilian reader, getting to know cultures from distant places like Japan, India, Nigeria, Canada or France, for example.
This is possible thanks to the experiences portrayed in the books through the characters and settings in which the stories take place.
5. To understand the world
Have you ever thought how important it is to get out of the bubble so you don’t get stuck in a single worldview?
By staying within your comfort zone, you lose what is outside of it.
In short, those who know different cultures have a broader understanding of the dynamics of the world and their own reality.
What was literature for in history for?
Literature has had different roles throughout history.
In addition to artistic expression, the books served to record historical facts, reflect culture and society and even shape the thoughts of an era.
It is worth making a resumption in time: when writing emerged with the ancient civilizations, text narratives were used for basic functions, such as registering agreements between traders.
But, as you know, the functions of literature have made important advances over time. This is what the organizers of the Book of Literature explain.
According to them, she started to “preserve the oral histories that were intrinsic to each culture and their customs, ideas, morals and social structures”.
In fact, historical facts are not left out and are recorded through literature – whether it is fiction or not. A classic example is the books on World War II , which are still successful among readers.
And do we go further? Literature was also a powerful tool for transforming society’s thinking.
It is not by chance that important books influenced historical events and social movements. Want another example? The Bible , which is full of narratives that have shaped social thinking and dynamics over the centuries.
But in addition to all the functions connected to society over the centuries, one thing is certain: books have also always been a way of entertaining readers!
How to include literature in everyday life
Now that you know what literature is for, how about getting closer to it in your daily life? Check out three essential tips to create the habit:
1. Discover your favorite gender
Finding the type of book you love to read is critical to including the habit in your routine without seeming an obligation.
At this point, it is important not to judge a book by genre (or by its cover) and to test different possibilities: fantasy, thrillers, classics, biographies and poetry, for example.
Gradually, you discover the genre that has more to do with you, and reading becomes more and more pleasurable.
2. Create realistic reading goals
Setting reading goals can be a motivator at first, but they need to be realistic.
There is no point in creating a goal that you will not meet, do you agree?
So, start with small challenges that can easily fit into your routine, like reading at least 5 pages a day, for example.
As you gain experience, you can increase your goals to read more in your daily life.
3. Be part of a community of readers
The third tip is to be part of a community to exchange ideas with other readers.
You can do this in a number of ways. One is through online literary discussion groups. Take the opportunity to exchange reading impressions and pick up book tips!
Another way is to join a book signing club. So you can chat with other subscribers to discuss the book of the month.
If you liked the idea, Viva à Leitura is a subscription club focused on diversity and social impact.