On Reading Fiction Books

Here is a question for me to ramble about today: Why am I prejudiced against fiction?

Or am I?  I can think of some fiction books that I enjoyed.  After I finished them, I felt as if I had eaten a wholesome meal.  Some of them stayed with me for a while.  I think of such books as Stephen King’s Insomnia or The Stand, or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, or Frank Peretti’s The Visitation.  

But there is a part of me that feels that, when I am reading a fictional book, I am wasting my time.  I feel more like I have accomplished something after reading a below-average non-fiction book, than I do when I have read an average or slightly above-average fiction book.  Maybe part of my problem is that so many fiction books these days are written at the sixth-grade level, so I feel as if they are a waste of my time.  Maybe I want to appear smart to others, and I fear that they would not be impressed with my reading of certain popular fictional works.  Or maybe my problem is that I think fiction-books present a made-up situation and made-up characters, and I prefer what is real.  (Of course, postmodernists can have a heyday questioning my assumptions, there!)  Another consideration: so many fiction books look the same.  They have similar characters, plots, etc.  I say this from my limited standpoint.  Imagine what people who have read a lot of fiction books for years might think!

For some reason, I do not have the same problem with movies or TV shows.  The reason could be that I am seeing and hearing the characters, and that makes them seem real to me.  I don’t know.  The thing is, books may actually present a more realistic picture because they look at characters’ thoughts and feelings.

I can probably argue the opposite—-in favor of fiction over non-fiction.  There are plenty of non-fiction books that cover things that I do not care about.  They can be really dry.  There is a part of me that likes to read about the human—-human struggles, human virtues, human vices.  When I can identify with a character or person, that is even better.  There are non-fiction books that explore this territory.  There are fiction books that do this, too.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to On Reading Fiction Books

  1. Laura Droege says:

    I’ve read lots of fiction for years, and I agree: many, many popular books are variations on the same old themes, have similar characters, etc. As a fiction writer, it’s hard to avoid this, especially if I stick to reading in my favorite genre. It’s also a byproduct of the pressure some popular authors are under to produce a book (or two) a year. I’ve had more luck with originality of thought when I search out books by authors from different countries and authors who aren’t as popular.

    If you really want substantial fiction, though, try some classic Russian texts. People are always impressed by anyone who’s read War and Peace, unabridged! And, according to my daughter’s AR reading site, War and Peace, translated into English, was written at a 10th grade reading level. 🙂

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I’ve been thinking of reading that sometime. I’ve heard good things about it, and I did like Anna Karenina.

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