I’ve never loved non-fiction. Unless it is downright riveting it won't hold my attention—and I have a decent attention span.
I’ve had this debate with my book club—Which is better Fiction or Non-Fiction? Which teaches you more? Which makes you a better person?
Now, I know that the answer to this is different for different people. I also know that it’s a complicated question. But I would like to share a bit of information I recently ran onto.
Dr Keith Oatley of the University of Toronto conducted a study in 2006 with these results: (read the entire study here—just a warning it’s non-fiction :)
“Through a series of studies, we have discovered that fiction at its best isn’t just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.”
To sum it up simply—Reading fiction engages our brain in the task of working out how others are thinking and feeling. It drops us into situations where we have to interpret motivation and actions. Fiction can help us flex our emotional and social muscles.
“How do we explain these results? My colleagues and I think it’s a matter of expertise. Fiction is principally about the difficulties of selves navigating the social world. Non-fiction is about, well, whatever it is about: shellfish genes, or how to make Mediterranean food, or whether climate changes will harm our planet. So with fiction we tend to become more expert at empathizing and socializing. By contrast, readers of non-fiction are likely to become more expert at genetics, or cookery, or environmental studies, or whatever they spend their time reading and thinking about.”
Fiction is art—subjective, expansive, and moving! I believe both fiction and non-fiction are important. But if someone tells you are wasting your time reading and writing fiction. Tell them to look up this study. And you can use the line I did to win the debate at book club, “Jesus taught in parables.”
I know it’s low to use Jesus to win a debate—but I couldn’t help myself :)