Tag Archives: The Help

The merits of reading fiction

I know several people who don’t take the time to sit down with a good book every now and then unless they need information about a certain topic. It seems I’m surrounded by people who don’t like to read or make excuses about not having time. It’s a little sad.

Fiction is a good thing for a multitude of reasons. First, it gives your imagination a workout. Even if you’re horribly unimaginative and chose to go to school for journalism because of a terrible lack of fiction writing skills, like myself, it helps your brain picture things that you can’t see. This is especially true for mystery novels because you’re picturing scenes and trying to work out a difficult problem.

Second, even made up stories have some basis in fact. Our teachers didn’t make us read Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and Brave New World for no reason. We were actually supposed to learn some life lessons from those books that would shape us into thinking adults. If you haven’t read any of those books, shame on you.

Fahrenheit 451. Photo from Creative Commons.

I would go so far as to say that the whole point of fiction is to tell some form of truth by dressing it up in something more agreeable to the common person. Sometimes stories are a little less agreeable, but either way it has the same impact. Just because the characters aren’t real, the place doesn’t exist, or the time period hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not based on reality.

My favorite book happens to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I can see why some people might think it doesn’t have a serious message, but it does. The point of following the Earth-man Arthur through his adventure after Earth is destroyed teaches us that time drags us kicking and screaming into the future no matter what. Also, life is ridiculous; get over it.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Photo from Creative Commons.

Then there is fiction that brings you back to a time that’s passed. I like reading books by Jane Austen because they highlight parts of the past that seem ridiculous now, and seemed ridiculous to her. The fixation on marrying above your class is a perfect example. Although today we don’t put a lot of emphasis on class differences when it comes to marriage, at least not as much as in Austen’s time, it’s still easy to see how much things haven’t changed.

There are more recent historic fictional accounts that have become popular today, such as The Help. The issue of civil rights might not seem that old to our parents and grandparents, but let’s face it, The Help will eventually become one of those books high school teachers force kids to read. It’s equally as important that they are exposed to that story as it is for them to read Animal Farm. Sadly, in my generation I don’t know too many people who willingly picked up The Help until the movie came out.

The Help. Photo from Creative Commons.

I don’t really trust someone who doesn’t read to do much good in this world because they probably aren’t good at considering different perspectives. In the words of Lemony Snicket, “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”