The present day is definitely a time in which we all need to learn to practice a little more political empathy. When our world looks very divided, books and reading can help us out. Have you considered that a great way to take political action might be to reach for a book? There is more to it than that, though: the type of book that you choose should be of a very specific kind.

Change your reading material

When people find themselves on one side of the political spectrum, they will often seek out reading material that helps to consolidate their existing views. Some people spend all day reading up on works by authors that agree with them in order to hone an existing opinion or to find that killer quotation that helps them in an argument with someone who disagrees with them. That is all well and good but simply reading books that consolidate our current opinions will just entrench us further in them. Reading should be all about challenging our views on the world, showing us a different perspective and - maybe - even changing the way that we see life.

What can I read to help me to empathise with other people?

The next time you reach for a book, why not reach for something by an author from a totally different background to yours? Try some literature in translation from across the globe - or read something in the original if you speak another language. You could even challenge yourself to learn a new language so that you can connect with viewpoints from different traditions. Grab a book that looks like it would usually not interest you and put in a little effort to see what it is that other people see in it. If you are a lover of romantic fiction, for instance, why not read a history book? Or, if you are a popular science fanatic, try out some contemporary poetry. The more you read, the more your world will grow: you will get to understand and empathise with the viewpoints of all kinds of different writers and characters.

The value of empathy

Nothing helps us to see the world through another's eyes like a book. Surrounding ourselves with people who can offer us solidarity and support is wonderful. But, we shouldn't let that mean that we become blinkered about the world. So, instead of just enclosing yourself in your own little bubble, why not head down to the bookshop or the library right now and find a book that you would not normally read? The more we read, the more we empathise and the more we understand other views. We all have to live together in the world, and a little more empathy, understanding and genuine interest in each others' points of view will all help to make this shared world a much better place.