“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.” — Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Reflections On: Alias Grace

At the start of this year I published my objectives for 2017. One of my objectives is to blog about every book I read this year, as part of a conscious effort to spend more time reflecting upon the content I consume. Below is my analysis of book four.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything remotely fictional. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I think I hold fiction to a lower standard than other genres. I’m not quite sure what my reasoning is, but I imagine it has something to do with societal demands for self-improvement. It’s hard for me to justify spending time reading a novel about murder, mystery or romance when I know I could be learning a new skill or discovering ways to become more successful, happy, or fulfilled. The irony is that spending the last month with Alias Grace has actually been enlightening for me. Below I’ve organized my newfound appreciation for fiction into three segments.

As a side note, the following is not a book summary, but rather a compilation of discoveries inspired by my reading of “Alias Grace”.

3 Reasons to Read More Fiction

1. Fiction Gives Substance to Nonfiction

Photo Cred: Clem Onojeghuo

I’ve always been a visual learner. I can understand facts, figures, dates, and definitions upon initial consumption, but it’s difficult for me to retain and store that information properly without having some backstory. Fiction provides a way to develop a relationship with a piece of information, thus creating an experience. Experiences are easier to recall because they demand our involvement, whereas a statement of fact does not. Though I am very familiar with gender inequality throughout the course of history, I was able to obtain a much deeper understanding through, and even empathize with, the book’s female characters. Rather than just reading about how women used to be treated, Alias Grace allowed me to experience how women were treated in that time. I can refer back to specific parts of Grace’s life and relive her days as if I were there alongside her, sharing in her suffering.

2. Fiction Inspires Effective Organization

Photo Cred: Luke Palmer

Contrary to what I used to believe, you can actually learn a lot from reading fiction. But fiction-based learning does not look the same as nonfiction-based learning. I think fictional learning occurs under the surface — it’s not as obvious to the reader what they are learning. Some of the best fiction is achieved through exceptionally organized content. When reading fiction, you are, perhaps subconsciously, picking up on ways to better organize content and engage an audience through vivid storytelling. I think the ability to tell engaging stories is one of the most underrated skills of our time. Think about it. Stories are everywhere. The ability to tell a compelling story creates effective marketing strategies, a strong UX, increased skill retention, the list goes on and on. Maybe if we spend more time immersing ourselves in a good story, we will be able to create more interesting and engaging content in our daily lives.

3. Fiction Provides an Escape from Reality

Photo Cred: Jilbert Ebrahimi

I previously mentioned the pressure of self-improvement. In a time where everyone is completely obsessed with productivity, life hacks, successful morning routines and self-help articles, fiction provides a much-needed escape. Being a culprit of the self-help era, I find myself consuming more and more nonfiction, as I continue searching for the optimal lifestyle — however unattainable — which often leads to higher levels of stress. Though seeking self-improvement can certainly be beneficial, obsessing over it can also be detrimental to our well-being. I’ve noticed that my anxiety levels are almost always positively correlated to quest for self-improvement — the more self-help paraphernalia I absorb, the more anxious I become. The root cause of anxiety is thinking too much about your own thoughts. Fiction takes the pressure off of the self and engages us in the lives of others. Perhaps a little fiction is exactly what our self-absorbed minds need.

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Are you a fellow bookworm? Check out my previous book analyses: 52 Cups of Coffee | The Limits of Art | Art Without Borders

Let a girl know if you enjoyed this post by clicking on that little green heart below! Stay tuned for my next analysis on Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović.
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