Once we reach college, non-fiction literature is seen as the preferred genre. Fiction is seen as juvenile compared to non-fiction reads. However, many overlook the benefits of fiction that exist beyond the words on the page. Here are a few of the endless lessons I've learned from reading fiction:
1. No one is alone in their experience.
There are so many times I've felt alone in my experiences. I convinced myself that no one has felt the way I feel and that there is no one I can relate to. Once I started submerging myself in fiction, especially coming-of-age novels, I learned that I am not alone in how I feel. Growing up is unavoidably hard and we often stray away from talking about things that are difficult. Reading fiction makes this transitional time less lonely in that it demonstrates how the feelings that accompany growing up are a universal experience.
2. There is finite time to explore an infinite world.
I've come to terms with the unfortunate fact that I will not be able to experience all I want during my lifetime. I will not be able to visit every place I desire or meet every type of person there is to meet. Fiction allows you to extract more from the world than otherwise possible. From fantasy to historical fiction to blood-curdling thriller novels, fiction allows its readers to experience the lives of others in an unparalleled way. In spite of the fact I'll never be able to attend a boarding school for wizardry or explore Derry, Maine with the Losers' Club, reading fiction allows me to experience these things in a different way.
3. Things will get harder before they get easier.
Some books are simply hard to finish. They may start off captivating and then somewhere in the middle the interest is lost. However, I've seldom regretted finishing a book in spite of this feeling. Reading fiction novels have taught me that sometimes you have to work a little harder in order to reap the benefits you desire. While something may seem fruitless at the time, working hard to go through hardship, rather than around, has never hurt anyone. You may even learn a few new things on the way.
4. There is always more than meets the eye.
In a majority of fiction novels, there is almost always an antagonist. These are the characters you either love to hate or simply hate. Though, most times even these characters are revealed to be struggling as well. Going from loathing a character to sympathizing with them has instilled in me an understanding of others I didn't possess prior. I've learned that there is always more than what appears on the surface and to be mindful of the fact that others may be fighting their own battles too.
5. Don't judge a book by its cover.
One of the first lessons we learn is to not judge books by their cover. In essence, we are told not to make assumptions based on appearances. Reading fiction has taught me that there is much more than what can be seen on the surface. A book can seem uninteresting based on its cover, but when I've taken the opportunity to read them I've actually enjoyed them far more than anticipated. The assumptions we often make are more reflective of us and our experiences than what is actually right in front of us. In short, fiction has taught me that looking past my own predispositions is how I will learn the most and enjoy the process.
6. Stories are the key to a life well-lived.
The most pivotal lesson I've learned from reading fiction is that stories are vital to living a well-rounded life. The cultures I've been able to learn about, the lives I've able to live alongside my favorite characters are unparalleled. Stories connect generations of people, demonstrate social commentary, provide readers with companionship and emotion and an endless number of other things.
Overall, literature is a beautiful form of art that provides its reader with benefits in a number of forms. Rather than cultivate a culture that prioritizes one genre over another, deeming one more legitimate, we should focus on promoting the pursuit of knowledge overall. In terms of my own relationship with reading, fiction has allowed me to learn the aforementioned lessons, and I know I will learn many more as I continue on. The next time you are unsure of how to spend your time, or what new hobby to pick up consider going to your local bookstore and picking up a book. You may be surprised by all you will take away.