Why You Should Be Reading Fiction

Elissa Johnston Why You Should Be Reading Fiction

We are bombarded with lists of non fiction books to read right now. Books to make us: smarter, richer, healthier, popular and to run ourselves and our businesses more effectively. But where do fiction books fit in? There are numerous benefits to adding novels to your reading pile and I am going to share just a few. 

The reason non fiction books even exist are to solve our problems by feeding us solutions. Yet novels are based entirely around problem solving. Throughout a novel the protagonist (main character) spends time solving problem after problem in order to make their way through to the climax (after which the story ties itself up and finishes). In a good work of fiction the solution to each problem is not solved straight away with a step by step formula. Instead, the answers are drip fed to the reader and oftentimes are messy and incomplete. Quite simliar to how life works.

Problem solving also gets us, the reader, thinking. When you read (quality) fiction how often do you think about the story so far when you are not reading the book. As readers we think about what the protagonist is facing and work out how they will get out of the situation. We hypothesise on what they will do, which course of action to take, and how that will affect the rest of the story. Many times we even predict how the book will end. This is problem solving at it’s core and we don’t need a non fiction book to tell us how to do it, because we already know.

Non fiction books centred around relationships speak in depth about emotional intelligence. This is done in theory with ideal practical applications, but life as we know doesn’t fit a straight line. Novels centre around relationships and by connecting ourselves with the main characters we are able to grow our own emotional intelligence. We develop empathy towards characters in a story. We side with them, or against them; get angry at injust treatment; sad in times of loss; and we even get excited reading about the thrill of new love or the victory of the chase. Fiction takes us through the gamut of human emotions and we don’t even need to leave our house.

While non fiction books are often dry and lack imaginative thought, well written novels pump up your imagination. When snippets of information are given, it is up to our imagination to fill in the rest. We might be told a character has chestnut hair and wears a white shirt. But what does their face look like, how do they speak, how do they walk. Or when we are told a character enters a room with a desk under the window, what else do we see in the room? It is amazing the colour our imagination provides to a story, filling in intricate details the author has not mentioned. Perhaps the author never convinced those details given we all will see it differently in our individual minds. Of course, using your imagination is another tick for getting those creative juices flowing.

And finally there is pleasure. Reading non fiction often feels like a chore, but a novel is done purely because of the pleasure it brings. Sometimes there is nothing better than curling up on our favourite spot on the sofa and losing our senses deep into a novel. Escaping into another world slows down our current world and there is immense joy in the luxury that brings.

So tell me, what novel will you be adding to your reading list?

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