Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today I have been thinking a lot about fiction.  I know of several people who have told me that they think reading fiction is a waste of time for them personally when there are so many Christian self-help type books they could be reading to improve their lives.  While I can understand and appreciate the desire to grow spiritually by reading good, non-fiction books, I also think that reading good fiction has made my life fuller, has made me think deeply, and has enhanced my understanding of the world and my enjoyment and quality of life overall. I am a huge proponent of reading good quality fiction. 

Several years ago I read a non-fiction book that challenged my way of thinking about the value of fiction in everyday life. The book was "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (Nafisi). The author spoke of what it was like living in Iran under Taliban rule where artistic expression of all kinds was banned, including the freedom to read Western literature. Nafisi spoke of how this form of tyranny was the kind that did not kill the body, but killed the spirit, which in many ways was even more cruel and sadistic. 

Good fiction feeds my soul. Good fiction adds beauty of language to my life. Curling up with a good book and getting lost in beautiful word pictures is akin to going to the art museum and gazing deeply into a masterpiece and losing yourself in the beauty of the painting. 

Fiction is powerful and transformative. Fiction is often the best method of highlighting truth and relaying a moral lesson.

Good fiction is invaluable to me. Life would be drab and dreary without art, including beautiful and masterful literature.


Carrie said...

Amen to that! Stories and story-telling are an art form of their own. Not to mention, Jesus spoke in parables to further emphasize or make a point.

GOOD fiction, as you pointed out, has the ability to touch the soul and the spirit in a powerful way and ought not to be avoided. It provokes thought, imagination and creativity - all good things!

As C.S. Lewis said, "Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."

We grow through stories. If we won't read them as adults, why would we read them to our kids? Bring out the self-help books for them also!

Clearly, there is value to be found in and through story.

Queen of Carrots said...

I do realize self-help books have their place, but I can't help but note the "self" in the title--they're invariably inwardly-directed. Good fiction directs us outwards; it helps us to understand others and desire what is good. Surely that is as worthy of an objective as the endless mill of self-improvement.

Heather L. said...

I totally agree. I love good fiction.

Alaina said...

I absolutely agree! I really enjoy reading fiction!

Jen said...

Great post!

the Joneses said...

While nonfiction has the immediate impact of being Real (and when I read, I usually read nonfiction), fiction can be much more powerful. I just read "The Hunger Games." I came away understanding much more fully why people would risk losing everything just to gain liberty for those who come after them.

And as you pointed out, fiction does more than teach. It expands our thinking. Those who read only "self-help" books are feeding an anemic spirit.

Thanks for posting something to think about! I have a personal goal of posting something non-child-related at least once a month. :)

-- SJ

Rachelle said...

My Humanities education taught me this: the Western mind has linked literal with true whereas they were not always so linked before and still are not as linked in eastern cultures. Good fiction is true and exalts the human spirit and teaches valuable lessons and lets the soul breathe. Even if it is not literal.