As any lover of books can tell you, reading literature is an emotional journey, a journey that we the reader are not in control of. By choosing to read a text, we are giving ourselves over to that text, body and soul, and letting it transform us according to its purpose. Literature is a powerful agent, one that can change who we are people, and recently, attempts to map out these transformations in a tangible way have led to some interesting studies into how reading affects our psychological and cognitive processes. This article has an interesting summation of how the kinds of studies that are being conducted to try to examine how exactly literacy changes us as human beings.
These are very interesting studies to consider, although it must be kept in mind that there is only so much accuracy and predictive ability within these kinds of studies. Regardless, they act as a pleasant confirmation of what we readers feel and know to be true when we experience a work of literature that changes us forever.
Monet, Claude. 1872. A Woman Reading. Image. http://www.wikiart.org/en/claude-monet/a-woman-reading.