Why is it important to read Fiction?
Yesterday was national book lover's day so I think it is the perfect time to share this blog about one of my favourite genres - Fiction! As kids most of us have grown up idolizing one or the other fictional character, listening to fairy tales and grandma's bags of stories. Unknowingly, these stories have made us into a person who we are today. We subconsciously believed in the 'happy ever afters' or 'our wish fulfilled' or that 'the truth will always prevail'. Somewhere down the line, we misconcluded that we have outgrown these tales of fiction. We go on to read self help, business, non-fiction, health and relationship books. No doubt that reading them is important and they have their own advantages, but ousting fiction because you think it's inferior - is a big mistake!
“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.” ― Khaled Hosseini
Often times, I see people despising fictional books, because they are not 'real' and that fiction is only for kids! Or if they wanted to read fiction, they'd rather watch the movie. Now, I won't be getting into the whole books vs movies war, that's whole another blog maybe :)
But I would be putting forward a few reasons on why should one never give up reading fiction.
Fiction impresses the subconscious with a positive mindset.
Every single self help or non-fiction book out there will tell you a few common things - 'Be positive' or 'it is all going to work out' or 'fortune favors the brave' among others. The most common theme is to teach readers on how it is all going to be alright and how things will always fall in place, if you are true. They often explain that the difficulties in life are usually bridges to something good.
Fiction tells you the same thing - except that it inscribes this in our subconscious through tales of protagonists overcoming obstacles.
The self help books will TELL you that you need to have a certain outlook towards life, fictional stories will DEVELOP that outlook. Fairy tales make you believe the happily ever afters, and as it is said, "If you assume your desire and live as though it were true, no power on earth can stop it from becoming a reality" The fictional stories will help you assume a positive mindset, rather than telling you to develop it by external means.
Fiction makes you empathetic
When you read fiction books, you live in that character's shoes. As against 'watching' that character in third person, you live in that character, in first person. This makes you empathetic towards the character, than sympathetic. Infact, there have been multiple studies published whose results have scientifically proven that reading fiction is an important socializing influence. There also have been studies which show that metaphors elicit the same response as that would have been in a real situation, than similes. Living life as someone else, helps you see the world in a different light which helps in personal growth. This helps in developing better interpersonal relationships and increases your emotional quotient.
“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”
― Neil Gaiman
Fiction normalizes inclusivity
Inclusivity shouldn't be something special - It should be normalized. Having people among us that do not fit into our stereotype should not be seen as something special, rather we should work on completely abolishing those stereotypes from our minds.
Reading fictional stories which have a vivid range of characters normalizes diversity in our minds. It helps us understand the perspectives of stigmatized groups. For example, in Harry Potter, the term 'mudblood' was used as derogatory term referring to bigotry towards marginalized groups that exists in real life.
At a time and age where this is of utmost importance, fiction plays a major role in cleansing our minds of rotten pigeonholes.
Fiction bolsters imagination
This is a no-brainer. When you read, you build your own characters, based on an outline. Reading fictional tales of possibilities outside the real world triggers our right brain. It makes us think of the world beyond the realms of our daily musings. Now the fact that when you read, you step into a character's shoes can be held true about any type of books. But, fiction does something beyond that - It takes you inside a character's mind. You look at the world and the surroundings such that you live someone else's life. In a pursuit of personal growth, looking at different realities, through the eyes of different people is indeed important. As it is said, a reader lives a thousand lives, by reading fiction you can live your life in another gender, in another nationality, or as an animal, a tree, a fairy or a witch, which is impossible otherwise. We usually long for happy endings in movies, but it becomes ambiguous when you read fiction. Infact, researchers have proven that those who read fiction have lesser need for cognitive closures as compared to those who read non-fiction.
Fiction helps you see the bird's eye view of reality.
Every good story evolves from the beginning (build up), the middle (climax), the end (conclusion). So do the characters, you see how a person evolves throughout lifetime. You can live inside the character's mind and overcome obstacles that they face. This interaction will take years to build up. We cannot discern what is going to happen next. But in a fictional story, a whole drama is revealed methodologically. Books simulate the whole process of evolution of a story and its characters. You truly live and 'grow' with the characters.
Moreover, since you get to live through the whole tale, you understand that things change and that you will definitely overcome that problem.
Fiction sharpens memory
It is a known fact that it is easier to remember things in the form of a story than it is by just a plain, dry reading. Now, researchers have also proven that those who read experience slower memory decline in later part of life. When you read fiction, you create a mental map of the plot, of the characters and their relation with each other. This capacity of mind is to create mental maps is called theory of mind. Reading fiction indulges this capacity, thus making a person's mind sharper.
Fiction helps you disengage to relieve stress
Obviously, one cannot work 24/7, and you need time to relax. Reading fiction is one of the best ways to disengage from the real world. This can be said about anything else, movies, partying, listening to music or anything else for that matter. But research has shown that reading tops the list of stress relieving activities beating out other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties -- all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name's Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, and, in various ways, religion -- these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”
― David Foster Wallace
Moreover, reading fiction takes you into the life of someone else. It does not involve planning your future, setting your goals or trying to think in certain ways as against non-fiction. This helps you disengage from reality way better compared to anything else. For example, you'd be listening to music and still be thinking of your problem or You'd be watching a movie, looking at the events in a third person point of view or reading a non-fiction to think or plan your life. Compare that to reading fictional books, you start living someone else's life, thus completely disengaging from the world.
“If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
I must acknowledge that although I enjoy reading all types of books, I certainly am biased towards fiction. Having said that, gossipy fiction, petty dramas, and tales that are more of fictional rantings have little to no value, at least for me. So when I referred to the advantages of reading fiction, I obviously refer to valuable fiction books.