I know- it says reading, not writing. But, as writers, we should also be readers, and I saw a thing recently on the internet (of all places!) that made me think a little.
The person posting said (and I am paraphrasing here) that if you are reading a lot of fiction, you are wasting precious time and giving in to the urge to simply ignore the world and its problems. That if you are not reading deep, informative, important books, and mainly non-fiction that can “teach” you something, you are, in effect, stuffing your brain with junk food.
Let me turn that on its head a bit and say that, in my opinion, if you are not giving your brain a break from the world and all its problems, you are setting yourself up for a lot of anxiety, and a good case of societal burn-out. Look, we all know we should eat healthy, exercise, and generally take care of our physical selves, right? But we also occasionally need to flop on the couch, forget the treadmill, and munch on a bag of Cheetos. In other words, a little junk food isn’t a bad thing now and again. And reading can be that mental break we all need at times.
On top of that, I don’t think all fiction is necessarily junk food. Oh, sure, we all probably have our guilty pleasure books- the ones that are just fun, silly, light reading that makes us happy. But many stories also have a message or some sort of commentary on the world, society, history, the human experience, and so many other things that can teach us as much, if not more, than a non-fiction book on the same subjects.
I’m not saying non-fiction is bad. Far from it. I read a share of non-fiction along with my fiction. It’s the limiting part of the original comment that I have to argue with. Let’s face it, there are just as many bogus, slanted, and downright wrong non-fiction books out there as there are bad fiction stories. So, just because the book is labeled non-fiction doesn’t mean it’s not filled with made up “facts” and slanted viewpoints. And, sometimes, it’s easier to see and understand a different point of view when it’s wrapped in a good story.
In the end, I think there is room for both fiction and non-fiction on everyone’s bookshelf. Sure, many of us lean more to one over the other, but mixing things up a little now and then is a good thing. Keep your mind open, read widely, and don’t worry about your brain. It will thrive on the balance just as much as your body does.
Now, where’s my bag of Cheetos and that silly parody I was reading?
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One thought on “Wednesday Writer: Is Reading Fiction Bad?”
To paraphrase Emma Goldman, don’t join the revolution if they won’t let you read fiction.
Or HL Mencken’s (IIRC) definition of a Puritan: a person terrified that someone, somewhere is having fun.
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