Benefits of Reading Fiction
Research shows that regularly reading fiction brings tremendous benefit.
- Improved vocabulary
- Reduced loneliness
- Better understanding of self
- Learning factual information
- Increased brain activity
- Slower memory decline
- Increased empathy
- Better listening skills
- Increased focus and concentration
- Improved communication skills
If those benefits aren’t enough to convince someone about the power of reading fiction, there’s more. This more connects with our faith walk as Christians in an interesting way.
Wisdom for Living
“The best stories and novels contain wisdom for living that cannot be captured in any other way.” (Why Read Fiction?)
Fiction helps us see human nature in ways we sometimes fail to through history, nonfiction reading, and even through our own observations and experiences. Maybe that’s because fiction helps us see truth from a safe distance. Or, maybe it’s because fiction isn’t really 100% made up anyway.
Look closely, and you’ll realize that the best stories are based on layers of reality within made up elements. For example:
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley tells us that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien teach us that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell shows that what you keep putting off until tomorrow off eventually catches up with you.
Good fiction helps us view the complex layers of human nature in ways that benefit us psychologically and socially. Some of those benefits are obvious and applicable to all, and some are individualized. And some are so painful that we’ll only hear them through the lens of the fictitious.
Fiction in Scripture
Consider that Jesus made up stories — fiction — for these very reasons.
In telling these stories, Jesus got at some tough cultural and socially taboo issues. He addressed what might not have been otherwise received by direct teaching.
What are the issues and lessons in the stories Jesus used? Let me encourage you to investigate those familiar stories once again to find out. Only this time, push yourself to go a bit deeper.
Not Just for Entertainment
I love to read fiction, and much of my motivation is purely for entertainment and relaxation. At the same time, I’m mostly drawn to stories with depth because of the benefits they bring to my personal growth.
When I realized that Jesus used stories with layered meaning and understanding as a tool in much the same way that happens in the books I most like to read, my appreciation of and draw toward good fiction only grew.
I encourage you to find good fiction that stimulates you in ways beyond entertainment and relaxation. In addition to the books listed above, here are some of my other very favorite works of fiction to help you get started.