Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fiction or non-fiction ?

If you  have spent any time at all in your local library, you probably have noticed that the vast majority of the books that the building has  on the shelves would be classified as “fiction”, which brings up a valid question:

Is there value in reading fiction?

I have run into a few people in local schools who don’t read fiction because they think that it is a waste of time – but I beg to differ.

Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 reasons why it makes sense to read fiction:

1)   You can learn something. My favorite authors are Steve Berry, Clive Cussler, John Grisham, Ken Follett, and Jodi Picoult. All of them incorporate either current or historical facts that can easily be verified, and all of them primarily write fiction rather than non-fiction

2)  You can improve your vocabulary and your writing skills

3)  Fiction provides a necessary respite from the nonsense that we hear on the news literally every day.

Over the last 50 years, these are the 10 most popular books sold in the world:

1)   The Bible – 3.9 billion copies
2)  Quotations from Chairman Mao – 820 million
3)  Harry Potter – 400 million
4)  The lord of the rings – 103 million
5)  The Alchemist – 65 million
6)  The DaVinci Code – 57 million
7)  The twilight saga – 43 million
8)  Gone With The Wind – 33 million
9)  Thing and Grow Rich
10)       The Diary of Anne Frank

Six of the books listed above would be considered to be fiction, but the most popular book on the list (which most people would consider to be non-fiction) raises some interesting questions. Although 30% of our population considers the Bible to be inerrantly true, it is full of contradictions. If you don’t believe me, take the Bible quiz at the link below:

In addition to that, 60% of our population believe that Noah’s ark actually existed, but I’m  reasonably sure that it is nothing more than a great fiction:

Although I am confident that my reasons for reading fiction are valid, I wondered if there were other advantages that I had missed, so I Googled “what are the advantages of reading fiction”, and found a website that listed NINE advantages.

1)   Empathy :Imagining creates understanding. Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for better understanding others and seeing the world from a new perspective.

2)  Disengagement: Reading is most effective for stress. Your brain can’t operate at maximum capacity 24/7—far from it. We all need periods of disengagement to rest our cognitive capabilities and get back to peak functionality. Reading is far more effective in releasing stress than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea, going for a walk, or playing a video game.

3)  Sleep: regular readers sleep better.

4)  Improved relationships: books are a reality simulator. Fiction is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.

5)  Memory: readers have less mental decline in later life

6)  Inclusivity: stories open your mind – one study shows that reading Harry Potter can make us more tolerant and open-minded

7)  Vocabulary: fiction readers build more language – people that read a lot, and especially people that read a lot of fiction, have a larger vocabulary than just about everyone else

8)  Creativity: fiction allows for uncertainty, where creativity thrives

9)  Pleasure: reading makes us happier

73% of the American population attempted to read at least one book last year, but 25% of our population did not read ANY books. If you combine these two statistics, you’ll find that the AVERAGE Americana only read 4 books last year, but the TYPICAL American (the ones who at least attempted to read a book), that number jumps to 12.

I’ll have to admit that our household reads a lot more than average (about 150 between the tow of us) but I also understand that not everybody has as much free time as we do.

So, if you are one of the people who tries to read at least one book a year, why not make it a book of fiction?

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