Some people think reading fiction is all about escapism and is therefore, a waste of time. As a lover of fiction, I wholeheartedly disagree with this because it simply isn’t true. Reading fiction—good fiction—is by no means a waste of time. I honestly believe reading fiction is perhaps one of the best ways to learn how to be a better and smarter human.
Reading Fiction Teaches Us Empathy
Reading fiction allows us to live inside the experiences of other people. Our brains can’t distinguish between what we read and what we actually experience. Don’t believe me? There’s scientific research to support this. Click here and here.
Although I can’t physically go to Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia, the Shattered Plains, or any other fictional world, my mind certainly can (and has been on multiple occasions). The wisdom I’ve gained from the people and events within these stories is deeply embedded in my heart and my daily living. This is probably why people roll their eyes at me when I randomly quote characters like Dumbledore or Dalinar Kholin. I’ve lost count the number of times in my life where I have literally and figuratively asked myself, What would Jasnah think about this?
When I think about how I understand my role as citizen…the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. — Barack Obama
Putting yourself in a fictional character’s shoes will help you to understand the people you know in real life better because you’ve been exercising how to relate to people in your imagination as you read.
READING FICTION TEACHES US CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
Reading fiction is an immersive experience. As I mentioned earlier, our brains can’t distinguish between what we read and what we actually experience—the same neurological regions are stimulated.
Novels have a way of entering our thoughts and feelings. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve experienced emotional trauma at the hands of a book. Our brains react the same way when we read a fictional experience as they would if we were living it ourselves—it’s the way our brains work. While reading, our brains are constantly looking for alternative paths and thinking through complex problems.
Before deciding to homeschool my children, one issue that frustrated me immensely was the fact that they were simply being taught what to think as opposed to being taught how to think. The ability to think critically is a life skill. Whenever I am frustrated and stuck on a problem, I always have to change they way I am thinking about that problem in order to solve it. Books help me to see problems differently. Characters in a story are perpetually presented with problems and the story is about them exploring and discovering solutions.
My love of reading novels has strengthen my critical thinking skills in more ways than I can count. Here are a few examples:
- Jurassic Park offered me a new perspective on the way humans interact with biology, and both the good and harm that we can do—particularly with genetic engineering.
- Sherlock Holmes taught me deductive reasoning (or as he calls it “systematized common sense”) and the beauty of being mindful in my everyday activities. I am forever grateful.
- Remember when Harry and Heromine had to figure out The Potion Riddle in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? My mind immediately went into overdrive (I’m here for a good puzzle!), and the deductive reasoning I learned from Holmes helped me solve it—before continuing to read to the end.
Choice of attention—to pay attention to this and ignore that—is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer life. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be. — W.H. Auden
These are the main two reasons why I love reading fiction. Novels have taught me so many life lessons. I simply cannot imagine a world without good literature to read. Don’t get me wrong, I read and enjoy nonfiction too. I love reading books about improving my money mindset as much as the next person, but I firmly believe if you want to read something that will help you better understand yourself and the world around you, there’s nothing like walking in a fictional character’s shoes.