Why Read: Perspective Cont'd – Story and Perspective

This a continuation of our “Why Read” discussion. Remember, we started by defining the three broad reasons to read. Then we talked about pleasure and education. Last week, we defined perspective and looked at coincidence as an example. Today, we continue our discussion by looking at the union of story and perspective.

Alfred Hitchcock: a good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.

Ray Bradbury: “There is only one type of story in the world – your story.”

Stories are our lives. Our lives are stories.

When you pick up a book and start to read, if it’s a good one, you will find yourself engrossed in the story. Finding out what happens next becomes a desire you come one step closer to realizing every time you turn the page. Humans’ interest in stories is natural. It’s universal. We want stories to be told or read to us as soon as we are old enough to understand them and the desire lasts until death. There are few phrases more powerful than, “tell me a story.”

Some stories have been around for thousands, if not millions of years. They have been refined over time and are now written down to make them more accessible, but many of the great stories began with the oral tradition.

In a similar way, our lives unfold as stories. One event happens after another and sometimes we can even recognize a connection between two events. Perceiving these connections and trying to understand them is also instinctual. We do it without having to think about it.

The perspective shift occurs when you realize the stories you read are really part of the one true story, the story of our life.

Stories are preparation for how our lives may unfold.

By reading and understanding an author’s plot we make our lives more meaningful. We start to see how the authors’ stories are related to the story of our own lives. With a little effort we might even start to see how the universal stories, the ones that have been alive for years, are still being lived out by us today.

Our connections to those around us are emphasized because we recognize their stories must be similar to our own. Our connections to our ancestors are emphasized because we recognize the problems they faced are similar to those we still encounter. Understanding the impressive power of story we learn that we are not alone.

Characters are mirror images of our internal state.

The characters we encounter are reflections of ourselves. They show us what we would look like in the mirror if you stripped away flesh and bone. The characters we encounter are a reflection of our inner mental states.

You truly know so few people in life. We are hesitant to share our honest mental states. Ironically, we are most hesitant to share these states with people we care about. Reading can fill this gap. Reading can provide mental states you would not otherwise be privy to. From your reading experience you can understand that the characters’ stories are not unlike your own.


Look at reading as a tool to enhance your perspective. Use reading to learn how your mental states look in the mirror. Use reading to understand your personal search for understanding is unique, but not a lonely endeavor.

Others have made the journey before you and lived to tell about it. They are labeled by their pursuits: authors, artists, philosophers, and musicians. Let story help align your perspective toward your pursuit. They have found a creative outlet to express their emotions and anxieties. Our goal is to find the same.

Can you think of a particular story or character that changed the way you viewed the world?


  1. T. Lloyd Reilly

    Absolutely it would have to be Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. I keep it in my library and used it in the reading classes I taught.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Brilliant book, great example. That’s one of the few books I remember reading in high school. I wasn’t a very good reader then. That one stuck with me.

      I wept when Holden broke the record he was to bring home to Phoebe. That’s hard to make a teenager do with a book! I wouldn’t have admitted that to anyone then, of course.

  2. Anita

    Many stories have changed the way I see the world. Stories stick with us. Don’t you think this is why a parable, for example, is such a great teaching tool?

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Parables are interesting examples. They set out with the intent purpose of teaching us a lesson and don’t even try to hide the intent.The story helps the lesson stick with you by using the action as a memory aid.

  3. Karen

    Father Andrew Greeley (http://www.agreeley.com/) changed the way I view the Catholic Church. I am not and have never been Catholic. Father Greeley gave me some insight into this religious belief system. He wove his stories around a Bishop and it gave me a different perspective on the issues that face the church. My reading list includes over a dozen of his books.

  4. Read.Learn.Write

    I will check him out. Thanks for the recommendation. I was raised Catholic, so sometimes I take for granted how much I think I know about the Church. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s take on things.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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