Fiction vs non-fiction. Which is better? When is the time and place for each of them? What are their pros and cons?
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I used to hate reading non-fiction. As an aspiring writer, I was all about fiction and stories and learning all about the craft in that way. But then I went on a self-development kick and non-fiction quickly took over. For the past while, I’ve realized that I want to incorporate more fiction into my reading habits. Both fiction and non-fiction have their benefits and for me, it’s all about finding a balance between the two of them.
Non-fiction books cover a huge variety of topics – personal development, memoir, education. And those topics open up to even more specific topics – self-care, therapy, grief, psychology, life histories, autobiographies, history, music, religion, etc. If you decided to stick to reading non-fiction for the rest of your life, you would never get bored.
Because there’s such a variety of topics in non-fiction, you can count on finding a book that pertains exactly to what you want to learn about. So whether you want to learn about parenting with sarcasm (a book my parents joke about writing), how to draw butterflies, or the significance of cartoons during the Napoleonic Wars, that info is out there, somewhere.
The other really cool thing about non-fiction is that you can read real stories from real people. This means that you can learn about real cases of survival and overcoming tribulations, and you can experience another person’s life knowing that those situations actually exist beyond our imaginations. It opens us up to experiencing lives that are completely different from ours and gaining a better understanding of people different from us. It also means that you can find support by reading about someone’s experience with the same thing you’re going through, which can be comforting.
While non-fiction can ground us in real-life experiences and lessons, fiction can be a form of escapism. When we need a break from the stresses of the real world, we can get swept away into a world of magic and dragons, or travel to France and Italy, or go back in time. We can relax into another place and forget about where we are for the time being.
Fiction is great for its ability to get creative juices flowing. Art inspires art, and fiction books are a form of art. In getting lost in fiction, we let our minds relax, which gives them a much-needed break. But the art of fiction can also spark our own creativity whether we’re writers or not.
Another benefit of reading fiction is that it’s a great way to learn about humans and their motivations and actions and flaws and potential. In reading fiction, we get to experience people unlike us. But because those characters are fictional, we get to see them at their absolute worst and their absolute best because they don’t feel the need to maintain their privacy – because they’re fictional! We get to see the deepest darkest secrets of fictional characters and learn from them without worrying about judging them or offending them or hurting their feelings. Fictional characters are a great tool for exploring the human condition without consequence.
Both fiction and non-fiction have their merits. I’m finding that alternating between the two styles of books keeps inspiring my creativity and satiating my thirst for knowledge.
Do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?
Enjoy the journey!