Eight Reasons to Read Fiction

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I studied English as an undergraduate, and I’m taking a creative writing post-graduate course now … so you might think I’m a bit biased about the importance of reading fiction. But the truth is, getting into the habit of reading novels, short stories, even plays, can boost your work and your leisure time. Here’s how:

Work-Related Gains

    1. More Creative Thinking
      If you’re in advertising, blogging, copywriting, graphic design or a similar industry, you’ll know that a great idea is invaluable: it can be the factor that distinguishes a “meh” project from a “wow” project, regardless of the technical skill involved.
      Reading fiction gets you thinking creatively: reading classical literature can spark off ideas for an advertising metaphor, the structure of a blog post, or even a TV show (“Big Brother”, anyone?). 
  • Being “Well Read”
    You may think it’s unfairly elitist or snobbish, but there is a tendency for people who are considered “well read” to be seen as intelligent and cultured. Depending on your industry, being able to chat casually with clients about recent prize-winning novels – or classic ones – could be instrumental in creating, or cementing, a great first impression. 
  • Enhance Your Vocabulary
    Being able to write well also makes you look intelligent and capable – and reading widely will help you enhance your vocabulary. This is when it helps to read “literary” fiction, rather than sticking to easy reads. When you come across words you don’t know, take a moment to look them up in a dictionary. 
  • Enjoy Your Commute or Lunch Hour
    Books are wonderfully portable and will withstand a lot of wear-and-tear: you can get a book out and read on a crowded commuter train. They’re also unlikely to be stolen (whereas you might like to keep your laptop or mobile well out of sight). Being able to lose yourself in a story can make even the most uncomfortable of journeys more bearable. 

If you drive to work, there are a huge number of audio books available.

Sinking into a novel is also a great way to spend your lunch hour: much more refreshing than simply surfing the net. If you can escape from the office, do.

Life-Related Gains

    1. The Ultimate Escape
      Feeling stressed, moody, miserable or lonely? Getting into a great novel is my sure-fire cure for any of these. It’s amazing how quickly you forget about what’s bothering you, as your mind is filled with intriguing characters and an exciting plot.
    2. Cheap or Free
  • We choose to relax in lots of different ways – many of which cost money. You can buy a paperback book for just a few dollars, and (unless it’s very short) it’ll provide more hours of entertainment than a movie. 

If you’re on a very tight budget, here are six ways to get books cheap or free.

  • Active Relaxation
    Unlike sitting in front of the television, reading is an active form of relaxation. Your mind is engaged with the story, busily translating those little black marks on the page into letters, then into mental images. This sort of active relaxation is often, paradoxically, more refreshing than watching television or surfing the net: when people talk about “losing themselves” in a book, this is what they mean. 
  • New Insights – Self-Development
    Finally, reading fiction can be a gateway to new insights about the world – and about yourself. Perhaps you’ll meet a character in fiction who’s uncomfortably similar to you; and you’ll recognize the solution to a flaw you’d never quite admitted you had. Maybe stories of courage against all the odds will inspire you. 

Reading literature from other countries, or “classics” from decades or centuries ago, can help you to see new things in life: the similarities and differences between your day-to-day life and that described in the novel can encourage you to think about different ways to live.

So when did you last read a novel? What are you reading at the moment? Do you love fiction, or do you think it’s a waste of time?

Written on 7/25/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali@aliventures.com) or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram
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