7 Things You Are Missing If You Only Read Non-fiction
Most of the successful people out there seem to read a lot.
But there is an underlying trend, a common thread that keeps striking me.
All these important people read non-fiction almost exclusively.
But their recommended fiction books tend to have this tinge of practicality to them that in the end makes people read them for the same reasons they read non-fiction: to learn practical things you can apply immediately in your life to grow.
When a guru recommends his top 10 fiction books we do not see many universal classics.
Not much Dickens, no Tolstoi or Dostoevsky. No Shakespeare, Victor Hugo or García Márquez.
At most we might find something from Hemingway, Orwell or Faulkner.
My aim here is to give you 7 good reasons to start scheduling some classic fiction reading time into your reading schedule.
(1) The best writers write fiction
Non-fiction is usually written by or about people who are really good at something that is not writing (business, a sport, health or wellness, investing…).
They are so successful at that activity that they write about it (or a journalist writes about them) and we all read the book and learn a lot.
Fiction on the other hand is written by people who are simply writers. Classics are written by people who have mastered this art. They are writing experts with a developed technique and style.
You get higher writing quality from fiction writers.
(2) Understanding universal values
You might read and learn a lot about friendship in a non-fiction book.
But reading “The Lord of the Rings” will throw you into a world where you will discover the meaning of friendship in a unique way.
Fiction allows you to savor universal values (such as friendship) in a totally different way from non-fiction. Not better, not worse. Just different.
(3) Brain flexibility
While non-fiction is great for your analytical, logic and fact-based brain, non-fiction will boost your creativity and imagination.
You will be using a different part of your brain and learning things a different way from how you usually do.
This brain flexibility is great for other areas of your life, and will help you learn things better and faster.
(4) Things non-fiction cannot teach you
You can study 19th-century England by just reading essays, history and academic papers.
Or you can also read Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”.
No documentary or biography will teach you about certain subjects in quite the same manner as fiction will.
Fiction allows you to relate to the characters and remember colorful details, making your learning experience complete.
(5) Willpower and concentration
Non-fiction is oftentimes designed to be extremely entertaining.
You can read really good non-fiction (books that change how you think or turn your world upside down) without breaking a sweat.
They are just so fun to read, and they make you feel so smart.
But reading fiction classics can be more tiresome.
They were sometimes written hundreds of years ago, with a different style that might not be optimized to our modern digitally-overloaded brains.
Persevering and going through this type of reading will increase your willpower and concentration.
(6) Improvement in taste
You obviously should not blindly say you enjoyed a classic just because it is a classic.
But you should also not fall into the relativism of subjecting all final qualification of a book to your taste.
Taste needs to be educated. Taste evolves, and a book we might at an early age find to be boring could become our favorite novel when we are older.
Reading books that the human race as a whole throughout the centuries has deemed as “the best books” can help us in this sense.
It could be that Tolstoi’s “War and Peace” has too many descriptions, is very slow and extremely long. It could be that all critics since it was written in 1869 are wrong.
Or it could be you need to learn to enjoy it. It could be your taste is under-developed and you are not yet capable of understanding it.
Reading fiction classics will jump-start your taste for literature and will help you assess quality of books critically.
(7) Empathy and changing one’s point of view
Fiction forces you to see the world (or at least the world of the book you’re reading) from another point of view, the point of view of the characters.
The author usually places you in the perspective of the main character and you understand and experience the world of the book from that character’s perspective.
This is always an excellent exercise in flexibility and putting things into perspective; in walking a few miles in another person’s shoes.
It can help you in understanding, working, and co-existing with people who are different from you.
As an example, Jane Austen’s characters are from a different place and quite different times, with different rules, values, expectations and social standards.
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