The title of this post is a bit exaggerated — but not as much as you might think!
I’ve always loved both fiction and non-fiction, and I have a hard time understanding people who say they don’t read novels because they prefer to read things that are “true.” I try to explain that sometimes, fiction gets closer to the truth than non-fiction because of its capacity to tap the emotional side of the reader. Fiction can convey truths straight to the heart that your head might reject from a non-fiction book.
But it’s more than that, and many times, I’ve found myself at a loss when trying to describe how edifying I find fiction to be. It sounds too crass to say “I learn from it,” because the learning is of a subtle nature. I’m finally realizing that fiction has trained me to be curious about many kinds of people who are different from me, and to want to understand them. I think fiction has expanded my mind and taught me to be more open to other experiences and perspectives, in a far more significant way than non-fiction has, with the possible exception of memoir.
Recent research bears this out. An article in Time magazine reported on two studies that concluded, “…individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective.”
The psychologists suggest, “The emotional situations and moral dilemmas that are the stuff of literature are also vigorous exercise for the brain, propelling us inside the heads of fictional characters and even, studies suggest, increasing our real-life capacity for empathy.”
So maybe I’m trying too hard to justify my fiction addiction (although I have a feeling many of you will thank me!) I’m simply ecstatic that I can finally begin to understand my instinctual love of a good novel and why I’ve always felt novel-reading was good for me.
Of course, if new studies come out tomorrow saying that reading fiction rots your brain — too bad! I’m not giving it up.
Keys to health: Eat your veggies, get enough sleep, and read novels! Click to Tweet.
Why fiction readers are better people – according to @RachelleGardner. Click to Tweet.
Fiction can convey truth to the heart that your head might reject from non-fiction. Click to Tweet.
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The Time magazine article is pretty interesting if you want to take a look: