While the overwhelming benefits of reading, in general, are well-known by most of us and have been irrefutably proven time and time again, a debate still exists regarding the benefits and drawbacks of focusing our attention on fiction or non-fiction books.
While one school of thought’s message is “why read fiction books when non-fiction is so much more helpful?”, others claim the exact opposite. And we are here to settle this debate once and for all, finally answering the burning question that’s been troubling us for so many decades already: is reading fiction a waste of time?
Is reading fiction a waste of time?
Before we go ahead and find an answer to this question, it’s important to make sure that we are all on the same page and that we understand the important distinctions between fiction and non-fiction books. While fiction books are entirely or at least in great part the result of the author’s imagination, non-fiction books are based on real, proven facts.
The fiction category consists of several genres like science fiction, romance, thrillers, fantasy, and others, and non-fiction includes biographies, business, religion, history, science, or self-help.
While those who claim that reading fiction is a waste of time would have you believe that non-fiction books are the only ones capable of providing you with any benefit, the truth is that reading fiction is, in fact, a very healthy choice for many of us.
There are some negative effects of reading fiction that you should be aware of, and we will explore them all below, but overall, doing any kind of reading is a great thing for you. And reading fiction even comes with a series of benefits that non-fiction books simply cannot provide you with.
So, no, reading fiction isn’t by any means a waste of time. Is reading fiction good for you? Well, if you are mindful of the possible negative effects, there is a lot for you to gain from including this activity in your daily routine.
What are the disadvantages of reading fiction books?
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to hear the bad news first, so here you go. Let’s have a quick look at some of the possible disadvantages of reading fiction books and some of the facts that make some people believe to be a justification for why reading fiction is a waste of time.
Fiction may leave you unhappy with the reality
As silly as it may sound, it’s true. Reading fiction constantly and never alternating it with non-fiction books may leave you wishing you were living in the idealized world you are reading about.
Whether it’s love stories that simply cannot happen in real life, or simply reading fantasy books about worlds that are completely different than ours, allowing yourself to get engulfed in this fictitious universe can ultimately alter your perception of the world we live in and, more often than not, that can lead to frustration, sadness, or even a constant feeling of disappointment.
One thing you can do in order to avoid that if you are a fan of reading fiction and don’t want to risk becoming dissatisfied with the real world, is to be mindful about your reading and to keep your emotions in check.
Basmo, for example, is a reading tracking app that comes packed with features that will help you be more mindful about your reading.
One thing that is particularly helpful in this context is the option to mark down your feeling and your state of mind after each reading session.
This can be easily done through emojis and it can be a great way of keeping yourself afloat emotionally while reading fiction because you can easily go back and see how your emotions changed during your last reading sessions.
If you notice a negative trend, maybe it’s time to make a change regarding the genres you are reading.
You may feel like your emotions are being played with
Since we are on the topic of emotions, it’s also important to remember that fiction writers usually do their best to keep you engaged, impressed, and involved in the story they are telling. Of course, this involves a certain level of emotional manipulation on their part.
While for some, this is exactly what makes fiction books special and enjoyable and are actually craving the emotional roller coaster, others may feel like the author is playing with their emotions in a manner they dislike.
Not at all coincidentally, this is also something Basmo can help you overcome.
By using Basmo’s journaling feature, you can keep a reading journal and jot down your thoughts about the things you are reading: what you like, what you dislike, how it makes you feel, and what your emotional status is while reading.
By keeping track of all these, you can later decide whether a particular author or genre is the right choice for you in the future.
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You don’t learn many things you can apply to your day-to-day life
One area where non-fiction books clearly have a considerable edge over fiction books represents the things they teach you. Since non-fiction is based on reality and proven facts, it can provide you with valuable learning material on the particular subject or subjects you are interested in.
Whether you want to know more about a personality’s real life, to learn a new skill, or simply to gain some practical knowledge, fiction books are unlikely to be of any help.
Fiction provides a temporary escape from reality, but that’s not always healthy
Life can be overwhelming at times, we all know it and we have all experienced it. While finding an escape from reality in fiction books can help to a certain extent, the important thing to remember is that overdoing it may have negative effects on your well-being.
Using fiction as an escape to relieve stress at the end of a tough day is fine, but you should constantly be aware of how much distance you allow this activity to put between you and real life, your loved ones, and your daily chores. It’s relatively easy to become too disconnected from reality and too engulfed in the fantasy world you are reading about, especially during tough times when you are barely handling everything that is happening.
It may induce idealized views of the world you can simply not live up to
You may have never thought about it this way, but you should keep in mind that constantly reading fiction can put unnecessary pressure on you. Many fiction books tell stories about idealized scenarios, out-of-this-world bravery, or unbelievable love stories.
The thing you need to remember is that real life is very different from the world you are reading about in fiction books. You don’t need to be as brave as the hero in the book you are reading, it is unlikely you will ever be the one who needs to save the world, and you need to accept yourself for who you are and judge yourself by real-life standards, not the standards you see in fiction books.
Why is reading fiction good for you?
Now that you are aware of the things you need to pay attention to in order to avoid any negative effects of reading fiction constantly, it’s time to go over the good news. There are many benefits of reading fiction, and they make it well worthy of your time.
Reading fiction is a great way to pass the time
Our free time is very valuable nowadays, and we don’t always feel like learning anything new. After a long day at work, your kids are sleeping, and you finally have some well-deserved time for yourself. Yes, reading about real events, or learning a new skill from non-fiction books is useful and can have a positive impact on your life, but that is not what you need when you’re trying to unwind.
Reading fiction can get you engaged in some pretty amazing stories, can make you daydream about better times or amazing events, and can make time fly. That is exactly what we need from time to time, and that is perfectly fine for our mental health.
Since we’re on the subject of relaxing, you should also know that reading fiction is an amazing stress-relief tool. It lowers blood pressure, decreases your heart rate, and it helps you get better quality sleep.
Fiction stimulates your imagination
Reading fiction, since it’s not providing you with any real information and tells some pretty amazing stories, sometimes makes you wonder how the author managed to come up with all that. Well, fiction writers have a great imagination.
And believe it or not, reading fiction can stimulate your imagination as well. Certain books make you think, imagine things, and force you to try and re-create the stories and characters in your mind’s eye. Science fiction in particular, where the things you read about don’t even exist in reality, has an amazing effect on your imagination in the long run.
Reading fiction can make you more empathetic
By forcing you to think about hundreds or thousands of hypothetical situations, fiction books have a positive effect on your level of empathy and the general understanding of the world we live in.
A famous quote from George R.R. Martin says that “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies”. And that is absolutely true. By reading fictitious stories about different events, from the perspective of different characters, you will gain a ton of life experience without having to go through those events yourself. You will find it a lot easier to understand how other people feel and understand why they act in certain ways. Ultimately, this will make you a better and happier person.
Reading fiction and trying to put yourself in the characters’ shoes in certain situations will also improve your social skills. You will be more comfortable and secure around people and you will even find it easier to communicate since reading fiction also has a positive effect on your vocabulary and fluency.
Why is fiction better than non-fiction?
Not only is fiction reading definitely not a waste of time, but it can also even provide you with some benefits you simply cannot get from non-fiction. So, why read fiction books?
Because as much practical information you get from non-fiction, some things cannot be taught by simply reading the words, they are actually learned through the reading experience only fiction can provide you with.
Non-fiction gives you answers, fiction teaches you to ask questions
All the things you will learn from non-fiction books simply cannot live up to the way fiction influences your brain. By enhancing your imagination, fiction teaches you to ask questions instead of providing you with the answers.
Being creative is a very important trait these days and fiction books will indirectly teach you to think outside the box, to see things from a different perspective (even if it’s not necessarily the most practical one), and will leave you day-dreaming, which can simply lead to amazing ideas.
Reading fiction is more fun
Yes, we are allowed to simply have fun reading something that brings us no practical, palpable benefit. Learning new things is important, but we can’t be in a constant learning state, we sometimes just need to unwind, relax, and read a fun book.
That has a very positive effect on our mental health and it can provide us with a considerable morale boost, a more optimistic perspective, and, ultimately, a more enjoyable life.
Fiction appeals to your emotional side, boosting emotional intelligence
As I mentioned earlier, a great part of fiction is based on emotional manipulation. The author will try to make you go through a series of emotions throughout the book, knowing that this provides a great reading experience.
Research has shown that reading fiction has a positive effect on our emotional intelligence. Constantly allowing ourselves to be exposed to emotional stories helps us better understand human nature, better see things from more than just one perspective, and ultimately allows us to make better connections with the people around us.
How to read fiction books?
If you want to take your fiction reading to a whole new level, using Basmo can significantly enhance your reading experience, volume, and efficiency.
With Basmo, you can take advantage of the note taking feature and use it to write down your thoughts about your favorite characters or about the plot twists as you read. This will improve your understanding of the books, will make the experience a more mindful one, and it will help you remember more from what you read.
Saving your favorite quotes from fiction books is also easy to do with Basmo.
You can choose to type them manually as notes or extract the text through the book scanner feature which uses your phone’s camera to capture an image of your chosen page or paragraph and turn it into a note.
You can then save the quotes as images, by choosing from a couple of predefined templates or even customize it to look exactly the way you want it to look. You can also share your favorite quotes as images directly from the app to the social media platform of your choice.
Setting goals, creating a reading schedule and having completely customizable reading lists will also help you read more. And, as you probably guessed, Basmo has all these features!
Final thoughts on reading fiction
So, is reading fiction a waste of time? Definitely not, but you should probably find a way to balance the fiction and non-fiction reading you do. Both come with great benefits, and you should probably find a way to enjoy them all.
One way to do this is by using Basmo’s book collections feature, which is a great way of creating personalized reading lists within an amazing reading tracking app. You can create as many as you want, and categorize them by genre or author, fiction or non-fiction. That will help you tremendously in finding the right balance between fiction and non-fiction.
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