Thursday, February 9, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, one of the WHYA girls said that the purpose of books is not to change the world. Some of us disagreed, and it was the start of a great discussion.

Of course, not every book is going to have a resounding effect on the world, and there’s nothing wrong with a simply entertaining read. It’s also hard to measure the impact a book will have in the long run. Only time will tell. But if you look back, it’s amazing how literature has shaped history.

The reason Notre Dame is still standing today is because Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame to save the cathedral from being demolished. Hugo not only changed the way people saw Notre Dame, but also how they viewed Gothic architecture in general. At the time, Gothic art was considered ugly and offensive, and Hugo made them see the beauty in it.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe showed people the horrors of slavery and compelled them to act. It had such an impact that legend says when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe, he said, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”


The resonance of books today is harder to see. But certainly the Harry Potter series and the Twilight Saga have changed Young Adult fiction. YA has its own section in book stores now. How many teens are reading now who weren’t reading before? How many people have been inspired to write who weren’t writing before?

Think about all the jobs that have come out of this surge of teen literature. In an interview, JK Rowling said, “One of the things I have been proudest of is going down to Leavesden [Studios] and looking at all these people with all these jobs — hundreds and hundreds of people — and occasionally I’ve looked and I’ve thought ‘Oh my god, these people have jobs because I had an idea on a train once.’”


Not every book is going to make a huge change, but I love living in a world where they can. So what books do you think have changed the world? More importantly, what books have changed your world?

7 comments:

sarahwedgbrow said...

Books change my world all the time, mostly to see it in a different way than my own.

I do think that quality LGBT Lit. is changing the world right now, which is pretty cool to see.

I just finished HUNTRESS by Malinda Lo. The relationship between Kaede and Taisin was real and sweet and all about discovery, on a backdrop of a magical world.

And HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour is another YA with a well-depicted lesbian couple.

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

Books can most definitely change the world. More often, they'll change a reader's world perception. I've had my eyes opened and perception changed multiple times because of books I've read. One being WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. Such a great book!

Kristan Hoffman said...

Ah, I had no idea about the Hunchback's back story! (No pun intended.) Very cool.

I agree with Sarah - I think literature is helping young people (and hopefully people of all ages) to accept and embrace "others" on a scale like never before. "Others" meaning anyone who is different. LGBT equality is on the rise (slowly), and (I pray) bullying will soon be decreasing.

S. L. Hennessy said...

This is a truly wonderful blog post. Seriously, I know a lot of weird literary facts, but I didn't know either of the first two. Great post!

Ingrid said...

Of course books change the world, and if not on a grand scale like the Hunchback story (very interesting, btw)they are doing it little by little, one reader at a time. The dystopian novels I've read recently (Hunger Games, Matched, The Road, etc.) have made me think about the future of mankind in a different way-- how the political and social choices we make today can affect the liberties we as a society value for generations to come. Great post, Steph!

Stephanie Mooney said...

Thanks everyone! I definitely agree that books can help us see the world in different way, and it's one of my favorite things about reading.

I'm glad you guys found my odd literary facts interesting. Thanks again!

Raimy-rawr said...

Great post guys, I have to agree that books can change the world, even if they just change it for the one person reading it. I know many have changed my world!

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