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Reading Fiction Is Just as Important as Reading Nonfiction

I’m sure we can all agree that reading is good for you — it grows your vocabulary, increases intellect, lowers stress, improves focus and cognitive abilities, and more. That being said, are people starting to shy away from some of arguably the best benefits of reading?

In general, children usually tend to read fiction books like Harry Potter or even picture books, and teenagers may often find themselves reaching for Young Adult (YA) books. However, with age there comes the expectation to read more advanced and mentally stimulating books. Suddenly as an adult, there’s a weird sense of embarrassment to pick out a cheesy romance book or a simple fantasy novel at the bookstore.

Society as a whole has put an emphasis on the value of nonfiction, like self-help books, biographies, history books, science books, and memoirs, while undermining the importance of fiction literature. Of course, there are the classics, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby, that have captured the hearts of people across the world, but as a whole, fiction books are typically looked at as simple pleasure reading while nonfiction is often considered an educational pursuit.

It’s fairly obvious why nonfiction is thought highly of — a lot of nonfiction books are straightforward learning and contain facts about all types of disciplines. There’s no ambiguity in the information you’ll learn from reading a nonfiction book, whereas fiction may become a bit vaguer.

Fiction does what can’t be accomplished any other way – it brings you directly into another person’s perspective. No matter the differences between the reader and the protagonist, books allow you to see the world from another person’s point of view, which is quite a beautiful thing. Fiction allows for empathy to grow in a way that expands both the mind and soul by experiencing not only another person’s happiest moments but also their challenges and defeats.

Experiencing the life of another person through their perspective allows you to see the world differently and understand others around you better. Not only does it improve emotional intelligence, but it’s also pretty fascinating to unveil people’s reasoning behind certain decisions and the motives behind their actions. Specifically, romance books tend to be frowned upon by many readers, but it’s unfair to compare their purpose to nonfiction. They aren’t written in hopes of teaching people specific intellectual facts, but rather to live through other people’s relationships, highlighting the ups and downs that come along with human connection. This in itself can arguably teach a person more useful lessons than a nonfiction fact-ridden book ever could.

You can also find pieces of yourself in fictional characters that you wouldn’t otherwise find relatable at all. Although we all have our own internal struggles, it often seems like we’re alone in our hardest times. Even the kinds of people we may not relate to in our real lives, from popular girls in high school to famous actresses in Hollywood, we all have some of the same human struggles. Fiction allows us to connect to those people and understand that oftentimes, we are all more similar than we are different.

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

– George R.R. Martin

Although I love a good nonfiction book, I will always have a huge place in my heart for fiction. We can all learn something from any genre of book, so there shouldn’t be pressure to read any certain type of book more than the other.

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Elizabeth Tait

U Mass Amherst '24

Elizabeth is a sophomore at UMass Amherst double majoring in psychology and sociology. In her free time, she loves reading, watching sunrises at the beach, making music playlists, playing tennis, and traveling. She is also passionate about mental health awareness and is involved with Active Minds on campus.
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