Reading literary fiction has long enjoyed a reputation as a constructive habit in American culture. It has been believed, at different times, to improve learnedness, social mobility, and even allay individual suffering as a type of therapy. This article examines one of the newest phases of reading as self-improvement: reading for the development of empathetic aptitude. Examining Goodreads reviews for Hanya Yanagihara's 2015 novel A Little Life reveals patterns in reader assumptions about the value of empathy to reading and points to a new paradigm catalyzed by Kidd and Castano's 2013 study, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” Through a comprehensive interrogation of reader reviews and relevant scholarship, this article engages the characteristics, shortcomings, and future implications of the empathy aptitude reading.

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