I love reading about people reading. You’ve seen the blog posts I’m thinking of: “What I learned from reading 10 books a week” or “Why I read every bestseller from 1980.”
I’m a voracious book-reader myself, lately going through a couple of books a week. Partly, I just like to compare my reading lists to everyone else’s. But, it’s also interesting to me to see the differences in why each of us read so much.
For some readers, books are mostly entertainment — an escape or just plain fun. In general, these readers seem to read more fiction.
For other readers, books are more about serving a pragmatic purpose — learning new skills and increasing knowledge. These readers tend to stick with non-fiction.
I’m much more in the former category myself, although most of the posts that I read come from readers who fall into the latter category.
I’ve seen a lot of people who have read twenty or thirty self-help and business books this year, but not a single novel. My recommendation to anyone in this category: make time for fiction too.
I enjoy self-help books and even the occasional business book. I think reading them, and other non-fiction as well, is an incredibly good way to learn.
With that said, I don’t think it should be all that anyone reads.
My argument for fiction boils down to one thing: reading fiction is fun.
You can search online for a thousand pragmatic reasons to read fiction: it increases empathy, improves vocabulary, and more.
But to focus on those pragmatic reasons is to miss the point. It’s treating fiction as just another piece of the self-improvement puzzle when it can be so much more.
Reading novels for their own sake is truly one of the best forms of entertainment I know. It allows you to go inside the heads of characters in a way that other forms of media can never quite reach. It introduces new worlds that feel like they’re straight out of your dreams. It can tug at your heartstrings or make you laugh with joy.
Will fiction make you smarter? Richer? Better looking?
Maybe, maybe not.
But it will bring you a joy that even the very best business books can’t.