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The Real-Life Benefits of Reading Fiction

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I have opinions. A lot of them. Here’s an opinion to start your day off: I think fiction makes you a better person.


I’d like to formally apologize to Sarah, for that one time (over margaritas) I asked her what she was currently reading. She said the name of some nonfiction business book, and I about spit out my chips in shock. So yes, apparently I have a few opinions about what people should and shouldn’t do with their reading time, and I’m sorry.

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But not that sorry. Let me tell you why I think reading fiction is worth your time (and is a better choice.)

Fiction is fun

Fiction should be fun; if you’re currently reading a book that is not fun, you need to stop it right now and find something new. A good fiction book doesn’t require obedience; if you’re putting off reading, then you just need a different book. If you want to be a better reader, then find books that are fun. Boring reading is not sustainable.

Fiction is both a healthy escape and a wonderful break

If your life consists of unloading the dishwasher or a terrible commute, you need a good fiction book. Quality literature flavors the world around you, and is a great choice to unwind and relax.

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Fiction gives you a different perspective

We were taught from an early age to “walk in her shoes” and fiction provides a path. Whether it’s Harry Potter, Charlotte the spider or Jayne Eyre, a good fiction book takes you out of your life and places you in someone else’s, fantastical or relatable. Brain development and an increased sense of empathy come from reading a good fiction book. Someone in your life driving you crazy? Read fiction.

Fiction is free travel

Want to know what it’s like to be a scientist in Antartica? (Where’d You Go, Bernadette?) Or a ranger in the wild west? (Lonesome Dove) Or perhaps what life looks like on a quiet street in Sweden? (A Man Called Ove) A Vietnam refugee placed in the southern US? (Inside Out and Back Again). Fiction gives you a peek into places around the globe and into an author’s imagination.

Fiction increases curiosity

If you read The Martian by Andy Weir, your ears may have perked up when NASA’s exploration of Mars made the news. After reading One Man’s Meat by EB White, I found myself interested in the personalities of goats; what funny little creatures! If something in our current events rings a bell, odds are you’ve read a great book that borrowed some truth from real life. Fiction makes connections to your real world, tricking you into being more engaged and curious about real life around you.

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Fiction makes you a writer

If you’ve enjoyed great books, start walking around with a pen and paper. You might begin noticing things worth writing down; memories you don’t want to forget, funny conversations you’ve overheard, a two-line poem that bubbles up and out. A good author makes you appreciate language and it’s power, so let fiction be your guide into noticing more beauty in your life.

Fiction brings you together

The term “she has her nose in a book” often sounds isolating and separating, but in reality, fiction does the opposite; it connects us. It’s like having a dog at a park; fiction is a conversation starter. It can be your crutch in social situations; you can always ask someone “Are you reading anything interesting?” … My only advice here, clearly, is when you ask such a question, to not have a mouthful of chips and a judgmental opinion. Take my word for it. And Sarah’s.