Why Fiction Captures Me

Photobucket Last year I started reading. Like, really reading.

I made it my goal to finish two books that year. Yep, two. But I had gotten really good at starting books and never finishing them, so the very important distinction of this goal was to finish two books, not just read two books.

In retrospect I think a lot of my inability to finish books was at least partially due to the fact that they were almost always nonfiction books. Typically Christian nonfiction, to be specific.

I'm not in any way opposed to nonfiction, nor do I think it is less important to read than fiction, but for me it's a lot easier to quit a book 2/3 of the way through if I've already gotten the gist of the subject or it's wrapped up into chapters that can more or less stand alone. They often lack the suspense or intrigue carrying me into the next chapter that I get from fiction.

I also feel like I already get an earful of people talking their opinions and/or expertise at me in real life all day long, especially online. Twitter, blogs, CNN, Facebook, you name it.* So it's nice to take a break from it and use my imagination instead, particularly in the middle of my daily 8-hour staring contest with my iMac.

In light of all this, I've decided a big part of balancing the signal-to-noise ratio in my life is reading fiction.

I like to read stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. I like to get to know characters. I like to have fun when I read. I like to be entertained but also maybe learn something at the same time.

I also think there's something special about someone who can write compelling fiction.

It takes a special kind of knack. To write fiction, you have to create something out of nothing and make people believe in it. You have to suck people into a world that only exists in your head using just words on a page, one by one. That takes skill.

Right now I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye. I've never read it before. In fact, I've never read most "classic" novels. I read Pride and Predjudice as my first book in my reading revival, but other than that I haven't really read any since high school, and those I was forced to read.

Anyway, I'm loving Catcher in the Rye already. It sucked me in from the first sentence. I've sped through almost half the book already in just a couple days. Not all fiction is this great of course, but this is what I love about it. It's skillful yet entertaining, and I still feel like I'm learning about what it was like in that time period as well as how to reveal profound truth through storytelling.

I'm not saying that nonfiction writers are less talented than fiction writers. Not at all. Nonfiction has its place, of course. There are a lot of people out there who are much smarter than me who I'm thankful are gracious enough to share their knowledge and experience with others.

But give me Harry Potter or give me death.

*I admit this is largely my own fault for reading this stuff. I'm actually trying to cut back thanks to this article I read telling me all about how the internet is altering our sense of being and leading to anxiety issues, which is totally plausible to me. Michael Hyatt has a great podcast on how to protect yourself from the negatives of the internet without becoming Amish, if you're interested.

Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?