· Bibliophilia · 3 min read

Why I read Fiction

· fiction

I have been reading fiction since I was 10. By the age of 12, I was hooked so much into it that I read nothing but fiction. Now, reading has turned into a habit. I always read for about half and hour almost ever night before going to sleep, more if I have time and mostly it is fiction. Over the time, my parents have relentlessly nagged at me for reading fiction. What good possibly come out of my reading made up stories about made up people in sometimes made up places and most of the times completely unrelated time periods? Am I simply wasting my time by reading fiction?

Schools encourage reading novels. I was fortunate enough to go to a school which had a huge library which was stacked with all sort of books in neatly arranged racks. All the teachers in my school encouraged reading. Once, the librarian even forced us to read a novel of their choice. She gave it to us as a homework and we were supposed to tell her the brief story of our novel the next week. She went as far as to punish those who did not read it. Why would anyone make such a fuss about reading if it serves no purpose?

Of course reading increases vocabulary and command at a language and many a times increase our knowledge, makes you more creative. But for me these are just side-effects. Reading conforms to other things. I read many a times for escapism, sometimes for the simple pleasure of reading, sometimes for nostalgia. Whether I am reading about the poverty of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn or the affairs of the rich in early 19th century England in Pride & Prejudice, it is to escape the real world with all its worries and people and root for the fictional characters. As Non Pratt so eloquently writes in her article for The Guardian on adult’s reading children’s book

For me, reading is an end in itself…. I read because my soul sings when I’m lost in a good narrative or caught up with characters I wish were real. I read because I love reading

So many times at the end of the day I pick up and read an old novel like Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer just to reminiscence the old days when I read them originally.

Though these things are enough to motivate me to read, reading fiction also has a much deeper effect. According to Neil Gaiman in his lecture for The Reading Agency, reading builds empathy, by forcing us to imagine the situation from the words we read which is different than watching a TV or film. Empathy makes us broad minded, allows us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals. I recommend everyone to watch his lecture on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNIUWv9_ZH0 or read its summary on http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming. It makes you feel good about reading fiction.

In a culture like mine where there is scarcity of everything, and everybody is bent upon, as Aravind Adiga puts it in The White Tiger, breaking out of the rooster coop, most people don’t give much value to reading just for pleasure.

Finally, a quote by George R.R. Martin to encourage all the readers

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.

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