Is reading fiction underrated?

Let’s start with two questions: Is reading fiction underrated? And, what do you read? If you read to learn or to gather information, you’re a non-fiction reader. If you read to understand another culture, to feel emotions or (yes, let’s say it) to time travel, then you’re reading fiction.

From my auntie who gave me a Dr. Suess book every Christmas, to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I discovered in elementary school, books were always part of my childhood. And ever since my mother taught me to read, I’ve read both fiction and non-fiction. When I became a mother, my go-to books were written by Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. Joyce Brothers. Then I graduated to Goodnight Moon.

When I first thought about writing a book (OK, when I researched writing a book) the first directive was always to read — to read anything and everything. My Goodreads account tells that story. So do the variety of titles on my bookshelves as shown above.

I especially enjoy reading fiction: historical, sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers … I used to think of fiction as my “guilty pleasure.” But an article in the Harvard Business Review changed my mind: Research suggests that reading literary fiction is an effective way to enhance the brain’s ability to keep an open mind while processing information, a necessary skill for effective decision-making. The article goes on to say “there’s no easy answer in literature” — kind of like life, isn’t it?

I like the phrase “the power of books.” Books can power time travel, only a lot more safely. That must be why The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was the most borrowed book in 2022 from the New York Public Library. I love that book. I read it in 2021 according to my Goodreads account.