Endless thanks to Andrew Sullivan for posting this short tutorial by philosopher Alain de Botton on the meaning of literature in and to our lives. It is an invaluable little video (less than two minutes).
I confess an often hurried aspect of my own reading habits. I find myself so enjoying the writer's style and immersing myself in it that I tend to overlook the writer's unique purpose, although it's harder to miss in some--de Botton mentions Proust and Shakespeare as monuments to depth, for instance--than others; say, Jane Austen, whom de Botton also cites, and whose Emma I happen to be finishing tonight. Again, I find her style delightful. But her purpose (beyond the rather obvious commentary on English snobbery) and immersion in her perspective are more elusive (to me anyway) than whatever I take from the literary giants of Shakespeare and Proust. Maybe it's a guy thing.