William Deresiewicz is a literary critic who is a contributing editor for both The New Republic and The American Scholar. His work has been published in The New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, The Chronicle of Higher Education,The New Yorker online, and The London Review of Books.
As an English teacher, I completely agree with Deresiewicz's idea that "great books say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought." When younger, I did not realize the impact a "good book" could have on me--as an academic, a student, and a human being. As I grew older, I came to realize that a good book could change one's life.
For example, prior to reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I refused to give scientific advancement a critical, questioning thought. For me, scientific advancement was important. It allowed our global society to cure illnesses, manipulate genes, and stay alive (with our loved ones longer)--among numerous other things. After reading the novel, my habits of thought were most certainly disrupted. I began to think about how we, as a global society, may be angering nature. We, in our attempts to control nature, were actually harming both it and ourselves. We were attempting to become gods.
While I am very aware of the fictional nature of the text, it does not change the fact that my previous thoughts failed to acknowledge the negative aspects of scientific advancement. While I do agree with certain advancements, others (for me) seem negligent. Deresiewicz is completely correct.