Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents - Keep in touch by fol­low­ing me on Twit­ter @Far­rah_S­torr and In­sta­gram @far­rah­storr FAR­RAH STORR Ed­i­tor-in-Chief

When I was 12 years old, I was given a book by my el­der brother called The Out­siders. On the cover was an im­age of a bunch of scowl­ing young men in scuffed leather jack­ets. It wasn’t re­ally the sort of book you give to a young woman on the cusp of pu­berty but still, I read it, mainly be­cause there wasn’t much else to do in those days. (No YouTube. No In­sta­gram. No fe­male-ori­en­tated gam­ing con­soles. I mean, re­ally… can you imag­ine?) This book, how­ever, changed my life. Be­cause while it was in­deed a novel about a group of teenagers tough­ing life out on the streets of Ok­la­homa, it was also a book about the dead end of child­hood. I was floored. Lit­er­a­ture has a funny habit of do­ing that – ex­pos­ing the world and all its com­plex, un­spo­ken ways long be­fore par­ents or friends or even lovers have had a chance to break it to us. I learned about sex long be­fore I had it (thank you, Judy Blume’s For­ever, the one bat­tered copy passed around my class­room like a re­lay ba­ton). I learned about love – and the loss of it – through F Scott Fitzger­ald’s The Great Gatsby, just as my own heart was break­ing. I learned about in­jus­tice by read­ing To Kill A Mock­ing­bird, and about loss and re­gret through just about ev­ery Ray­mond Carver short story out there. Words on a piece of pa­per may not be as thrilling as a flashy fil­ter or a pithy cat meme, but they can be more pow­er­ful. Be­cause books (and features like the ones you find in this mag­a­zine) help us make sense of the out­side world, while forc­ing us to look inside our­selves. So why am I shar­ing this with you? Be­cause, not so long ago, I re­ceived an email from a young English teacher who, she ex­plained, was faced with no longer be­ing able to of­fer English lit­er­a­ture at A-level. When I asked why not, she said it was be­cause of a lack of in­ter­est. No one ap­peared to think it was ‘use­ful’ any more. (This, by the way, isn’t just the case in the quiet cor­ner in which she lives, but across the coun­try.) But ‘use­ful’ has many guises. On the sur­face, books and words and thoughts passed from one mind to an­other may not ap­pear to give us the ‘com­pet­i­tive edge’ we all crave in to­day’s world. But that is to miss the point en­tirely. Be­cause to stand out in to­day’s crowded mar­ket­place, we need peo­ple who can look in­wards as well as those who can look out­wards. We need thinkers just as much as we need do­ers. And we need writ­ers and stu­dents of A-level lit­er­a­ture just as cru­cially as we need coders and bril­liant sci­en­tific minds. It’s the very rea­son why we need left-wing politi­cians just as much as we need right-wing ones, and why in meet­ings we need a devil’s ad­vo­cate just as much as we need a cheer­leader. Dif­fer­ence drives con­ver­sa­tion, and con­ver­sa­tion drives mo­men­tum. And re­ally, there’s noth­ing more use­ful than that.

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