Fiction vs Non-fiction

The Great Divide

This is reblog of my old post! But the thoughts still stand true!

The war between fiction and non-fiction readers is not new; it has been going on for ages. I started re-thinking about it today again when a friend posted this link on twitter. And which better day to talk about fiction and fantasy than J. R. R Tolkien’s  122nd birthday.

I have heard many friends proclaim proudly, “I read only non-fiction these days. I am done with reading fiction.” I also had someone once tell me-with a disdain- “I can’t read fiction; it’s too far-fetched for me. As a scientist I would like to read facts presented in a concise manner.” I don’t understand such people. Everyone has their own tastes, but that doesn’t make your opinion and tastes better than others. I don’t read non-fiction as often, but I don’t proclaim to the world, how “boring” it is to read pages after pages of facts presented to you in a “concise” manner.  Some friends I know don’t like fiction because they feel that they can’t identify with the characters or that there’s nothing to “learn” from reading fiction.

While I understand that you probably can’t identify with a boy wizard or a hobbit, the idea that fiction doesn’t teach you anything is completely wrong and unfortunately most common. The more appropriate question to ask would be, “What can fiction not teach you?” We read fairy tales to young kids and our parents read them to us which were of course fictional. But the idea behind all the tales was triumph of good vs evil; courage and bravery in the face of adversities and friendship forever. The adult fictional books still have similar themes of bravery, friendship and love. Because a grown up needs to be reminded of these lessons too. As kids we learnt more facts when told in a form of a story, we aren’t very different as adults. Facts are still fun when told in the form of stories.

And the best part about fiction is travelling to all the beautiful places without leaving the comfort of your couch! Have you ever felt the thrill of travelling to the places that you read about in your favorite book; or thrill of knowing that you have been to these places that your favorite author is writing about! I have visited Prague, Ireland, the entire US, Oxford, 16th century London, period of Homer, Kurukshetra, middle-earth and Westeros while sitting in my tiny apartment. Currently I am in 19th century New Zealand at the height of gold rush. And God what a ride it has been!! J

People have weird reactions when I tell them that fantasy, paranormal is my favorite genre along with crime and psychological fiction. Yes, paranormal and fantasy means made-up creatures like vampires, witches, dwarves and elves. Reading fantasy stretches your imagination and creativity, you know it is a made up world, but it is great to escape in the fantasy for a while, where heroes are saving the world. Human brain is very elastic and it needs to be stretched beyond the realms of possibilities other than crammed with facts all the time. As adults we need to read and believe more in magic and fantasies because unlike kids we are already jaded. The idea of a universe beyond our earth was also a fantasy once, but now we know there is this whole unknown world out there. Wouldn’t you like to explore it yourself through your favourite hero rather than just read about it?


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