As a writer who started out quite early at an age of thirteen, reading anything and everything I lay my eyes upon was inevitably the raw material to the construction of imaginary worlds. I started out reading books with abridged children’s classics and children’s magazines, which moved on to Enid Blyton’s child-detective series from the school library, which naturally caught up to Nancy Drew and Hardy boys in the mid-teens. And not to mention the Harry Potter series, for which I had to often book and wait from those who had a copy or from the library because it was hardly left behind there.
Then came the romances and women’s fiction novels which I still dig aside psychological thrillers and literary fiction. When I could no more borrow books after leaving high school, I traded used books for used books, rinse and repeat until my collection thinned. Later, I set out to read books through the java mobile phone by finding jar format e-books. In short, I made sure I read 1–3 books a week.
Years later, I would grow up, earn my own money and hoard books. In the flurry of life, reading fell behind despite stocking my physical and digital shelves with new books every month as I got into writing more and tried to juggle work, writing and parenting.
Recently, I started reading passionately again. And it was nothing less than heavenly, like redeeming long lost lives, getting transported to another world without needing tickets and time-machine. I realized how much I had missed reading. Now I have set up my tablet with long-time wish-lists of books and dusted my bookshelves, too.
“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” — Descartes
To me, it is appalling how many people have not yet bothered to find the pleasure of reading. Some, like me, have fallen back on it. Some are demotivated and stilled. Some find it hard to fit in to their hectic life. Some even dare to believe that to write, they don’t need to read! Each of you will have different reasons to not read a novel. Finding time is just a matter of priority and we all know the role of the internet and smartphones in ‘not having enough time.’
Some even dare to believe that to write, they don’t need to read!
That said, I thought, maybe I should come up with a few reasons for you to try reading fiction books. It is not a letting down of non-fiction books or a comparison against other genres, because, they would do all of this as well, although differently. But as I am a fan of fiction and a novelist, and because it has helped me in all these ways, here we go!
Improved language and writing
This goes without saying. But it must be said. Fiction reading refines your language and if you are a storyteller, it is indispensable to grow in it. Reading fiction exposes you to different techniques of storytelling, polishes your language and improves your writing. It boosts your imagination in every which way, enabling you to perfect your craft. If you are not a writer, it can still help you to have a good command over the language in practice and put all you know into writing.
“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”
― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
5 Ways to Bring Life into Writing
Convert daily life into words that ripple with passion, courage and skill.
Reading fiction can take you places in the literal sense. Fiction lets you see places you may never visit and know the myriad colors of life, different cultures and lifestyles without feeling like a tourist guide. A well-set novel can bring the world to your hands. You can just chill out in your couch or favorite reading spot while you travel.
It’s not the same as traveling, but not everybody can afford plane tickets as often as they can afford novels. So, yes, it is almost as good and without jet lag.
Are you a tad bit bored by your monotonous routine? Limited by the things you can experience? Fiction lets you live lives you may never live, be in the heads of other people without messing up anything. You can learn how other lives work. The rich, the poor, the sick and the accomplished. The good and the bad. The hero and the villain.
There’s a lot written for whatever it is you want to experience. Just pick the right novel.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin
An escape from reality and a peek into the future
Fiction can give glimpses of what is not yet in existence and of brilliant possibilities as in Science Fiction and lets you detach from the drilling of everyday life and reality as Fantasy genre allows.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
“Books break the shackles of time — proof that humans can work magic.” — Carl Sagan
A mental treadmill
Fiction reading is a mental treadmill. It gives a workout for your brain and memory. When you read a novel, you are going to have to train your brain to remember details from the very first chapter as you go. And that is precisely what exercises the memory and strengthens it. I read three novels a week and still scored well at school. It really helped to grasp words and remember them without effort because of the synapses strengthened in my head for words.
Better cognition and emotional intelligence
Fiction gives you the opportunity to delve into the existential questions and deeper realms of the human mind, character, behavior and its processes. It allows you to take a look at other people’s thinking, be in other’s shoes and develop empathy and better understanding of humanity.
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emotional intelligence is taking a backseat in this busy and fast-paced world. Readers of fiction are generally found to have that part together in them. Fiction could also broaden your perspectives and perceptions of the world you live in, to see into the little things that you would otherwise overlook. Further, it gives a welcome break from clichéd thinking and helps you to be innovative and imaginative.
Fiction can be the right pick-up when you are depressed or feeling uninspired. Inspirational or faith-centered fiction could show you light at the end of the tunnel. Tragedies can result in catharsis. Romances could better your relationships. Women’s fiction can be especially motivating to women and help men understand women better. Dramas could prep you to handle conflicts. The possibilities are endless. I swear by fiction books over self-help books in this particular matter.
“Reading brings us unknown friends” — Honoré de Balzac
Fiction reading is an excellent way to spend leisure time fruitfully and even turns out to be a great getaway in short bursts during the course of the day. I remember how I used to pull out my ongoing read when the hour was up and the bell rang at school, and how I raced hungrily through pages or passages between the few minutes when one teacher left and the other entered the classroom. It has immensely contributed to my growth as a writer.
With the availability of books in various formats and within easy reach, you just need to find if any of the above reasons feel like a good one for yourself to start reading fiction today.