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In short, no. Reading fiction is not a waste of time.
Fiction books are a wildly valuable tool. At first thought, they’re just a great way to entertain. While entertainment value is a great reason to read fiction, there are so many other great things to come from reading fiction, too. So, what can you learn from reading fiction?
We’re all products of our environments, upbringings, and experiences. Our personal histories are the context we carry with us in our continued experience of the world. It can be hard the shred that context as we try to learn from new people or experience new events. In reading fiction, a new perspective, a new personal history, and a new experience can be shared with you without bias towards your own experience. A work of fiction just tells its story as is and leaves it up to you to remain open to hear it. You’ll get to see through the eyes of people so unlike you, but who have true and worthy experiences. All those new perspectives, like that of a street urchin, a prince, a person experiencing depression, or a person experiencing brutality, will help you piece together the greater picture that is everybody that makes up this gigantic world.
Especially from reading historical fiction, but also from other genres, you can learn about the historical events. From Outlander, you can learn about 18th century Scotland. From For Whom the Bell Tolls, you can learn about the Spanish Civil War. Learning about various events through the eyes of others makes them relatable and, again, your understanding of the world is broadened.
Fiction can often provide the gift of understanding. A villain isn’t just the bad guy. He’s a person who felt this course of action was his only option. The opposing army isn’t a faceless swarm of evil, it consists of soldiers who are torn between doing their job and doing what they believe to be right.
You might disagree with or even dislike characters in a work of fiction, but reading their story gives you the opportunity to explore their motivation and values, and potentially feel compassion towards them despite your differences without consequence from the real world. Fiction is a great exercise in exploring your ability to look at others with kindness and compassion.
Have you ever screamed with rage? Cried for days? Felt terror? Mercy? Grief? Lust? Vulnerability? Read enough fiction and you’ll experience emotions that you may not have yet come across in your own life. Don’t worry, life is fickle and I’m sure you’ll get to that fun stuff soon enough, but in the meantime, fiction will teach you all about what it is to feel those emotions and how to work through them. In learning about those emotions, you’ll become a truly emotionally intelligent person, meaning you’ll have a better time interacting and building relationships with other people.
Speaking of fiction – have you read this short story?
It makes me sad to think that some people think fiction is a waste of time. It has so much to teach about humanity, its history, and how we relate to each other. And it’s straight up entertaining! Let’s all start reading some great fiction today! Click here for some options!
Any fiction recs for me???