In a lecture today (on a book I haven't yet read) it was suggested that we read literature only to aid us in reading the rest of the world. I am not sure I entirely agree - I think there is more to it than that, as with any art - but I certainly lean towards the understanding that it may, indeed, help. Because our readings are not merely fictitious---they are, when character-driven, highly sociable. Our feelings of empathy, of sadness---even of boredom---are driven by our reading of people. We meet characters not in their physicality, but most vividly in their mentality---and a connection, sometimes as strong as the bonds we make with friends, is formed.
Perhaps with all the reading I have been doing, it isn't terribly surprising that lately I have also felt myself reading people more acutely. I am seeing, more and more, a tenderness in their faces, in their actions, in the tones of their voice---in the renewed smiles of the love-lorn and the concern of doctors.
Word goes around that you can do little with a literature degree--- but if it is true - if my social and emotive awareness is heightened because of my reading - I am grateful, already. And in the moments that I do not quite get it - in the moments that I hear the wrong things or feel the hinge of pressure closing - I will search for it more.