Why I Read Fiction - CCM12

I’ve known some folks who considered reading fiction to be a waste of time. They would only read nonfiction. I very much disagree with this point of view. While I do read nonfiction, the majority of my reading for my entire life has been fiction and I know it has enriched my life and benefited me intellectually.

I'm a strong proponent of continuous improvement, lifelong learning, and gleaning bits of knowledge wherever you can and reading is one of the easiest ways to do that. And I firmly believe that you don’t have to read only self-help or dry nonfiction to do that; it's absolutely possible to learn from fiction as well. Of course, this means that you might have to be a bit choosy about the fiction you consume.

There's nothing wrong with reading a book for simple enjoyment and entertainment. There’s no feeling like getting lost in a great story. But even when swept up in a fictional narrative for its sheer entertainment value, one can still learn from it too. I have encountered some very poignant or thought-provoking lines in a thriller. But I intentionally go into my reading with the mindset of "What can I learn from this?" My subconscious is on the lookout for a line of dialogue or a bit of prose that has some greater value. And all the better if it does so even outside of the context of the story. If you are consciously looking for tidbits to glean you will find them.

Viewing specific circumstances through the eyes of a particular character can provide a perspective that you might not have otherwise ever encountered. And those perspectives can impact who you are as a person. They can help make you more empathetic, understanding, or patient, or conversely, more steadfast, confident, and resolute. Viewing the plight of orphans through the eyes of Oliver Twist can help the reader be more compassionate to the downtrodden and less fortunate they encounter. The tenacious, determined spirits of Frodo and Sam to get to Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring teach us about fighting against the odds and never giving up, as well as, the value of friendship. The carefree innocence and whimsy of Anne Shirley illustrate how it’s important that we never lose sight of joy and wonderment and optimism in life and to appreciate even the little things.

A well-written story can not only evoke certain emotions and actions from the reader, but it can also cause the reader to think more deeply about certain ideas, issues, or situations. They can prompt questions that are valuable for self-awareness and self-evaluation. One of my favorite things about reading is when I finish a book and it leaves me in this sort of “fog” or “aftermath” and I can’t stop thinking about the story and pondering the ideas and questions it inspired, sometimes even days or weeks later. It’s tough to describe the feeling, but I know my fellow bookworms can relate!

All of that to say, reading is valuable on its own; it can improve your spelling, increase your vocabulary, and just make you a better conversationalist. To say nothing of the practical knowledge you can pick up from fiction. But when coupled with intentional thought and a purposed mind it becomes a powerful tool for personal growth. I know that it helps you become a more well-rounded person because it's happened to me.

A few final thoughts:

How many books you read isn’t the point. It's not about the quantity of books but the perspectives viewed, lessons learned, and thoughts considered from the ones that you do read that really matters.

Not every book is going to resonate with you fully, but you can still pull nuggets of wisdom, information, or inspiration from even the ones you don’t end up loving and will never re-read. And as a creative, you never know what might be the inspiration for your next great idea.

So if you are already a reader, I encourage you to begin to read with intent. And if you are not yet a reader, then I challenge you to start. Start with one book a month. Read what interests you even if it is fiction. But read with the goal of expanding your knowledge and learning new things. If sitting down with a physical, paper book is challenging for you and your schedule, then try audiobooks or ebooks but just put in the effort. I'm fairly sure that in the end, you won't regret it.

There is a lot more that I could say about this topic, but let’s wrap it up for now. Let me know if you’d like to hear more. For now, I want to share a few tools I use to help me track my reading and my personal library.

Reading Tools:

For my library, I use a tool called LibraryThing. It is a great way to have a digital card catalog of your personal books. It's a way to keep track of which books you actually own so you don't end up buying them again. You can sort them by genre and it's got a lot of great features for tracking your library.

For tracking your reading you can use websites like Goodreads which allows you to track where you are in a book, which books you have read, which books you want to read, and there are a lot more features to it. It is owned by Amazon, and I know some people are not big Amazon fans, so an alternative that I've recently been checking out is called The Story Graph which does many of the same things, but even more. It allows you to give fractional star ratings to books which Goodreads does not do. 

A few quotations about this topic:

“Reading without thinking is nothing, for a book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think.”
― Louis L'Amour, The Walking Drum

"Every story that matters asks big questions."
― Steven James

“I believe that all great stories ask big questions, questions of meaning, good and evil, moral choices, and the beliefs that we have about God, human nature, and forgiveness. Most of my stories explore the dark side of human nature and the fierce questions that Patrick Bowers asks as he tackles his cases. I want my stories to provide hope for people when they look at the real world and see how much in need of redemption it is.”
― Steven James, in an interview

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

What are some of your favorite benefits of reading? Let me know in the comments below.


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