I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why do you read fiction?

Photo Credit
Hey friends, Melissa here, with a truly epic story! Okay, fine, it's really not that mind-blowing. But if you're a fiction reader, it might just cause you a moment's interest...

So, I'm visiting an absolutely wonderful 86-year-old woman.

I arrive at her house and she has tea and treats all ready. And like every time I visit, we spend a couple hours talking. She tells me about the basketball game she's going to watch that night. The 50-some hats she's crocheted for the homeless ministry where I work. And...

How she doesn't read fiction.

Oh, she reads, all right. Probably a dozen books a month. But no fiction. Because in her words, "Why would I?"

Try to imagine me, if you will. Choking on my tea. Snorting it up my nose. Trying not to spit it out. Or laugh. Or cringe.

I love this lady like crazy. She amazes me with her faith and wisdom and energy.

But she doesn't read fiction.

During the course of our conversation a few weeks ago, I decided I'd leave out that teensy tidbit about me being an aspiring novelist. Figured maybe she didn't need to know. But I couldn't help giggling about it later in the day.

See, I'm sooo polar opposite. I can't understand not reading fiction! Sure, I read plenty of nonfiction - usually devotionals and the like. (Um, but I've never read Blue Like Jazz. Am I still technically a Christian? Hehe.)

But her question did get me thinking:

Why do I love fiction so much? 

I drink the stuff in, I'm telling you. Is it the escape? The adventure? The romance? The connection I feel to characters? Maybe the opportunity, while buried in those pages, to experience a life different than my own. I certainly also love stories which make me think, stir up my faith, encourage and inspire me.

It's probably all that and more. Mostly, I love stories. Somehow a good story has this way of giving life to thoughts and emotions in me I sometimes never knew I had...if that makes any sense at all.

I feel like I'd miss out on so much if I didn't read novels. Can't give 'em up.

But if you don't mind, we'll just keep that between you and me and not a certain 86-year-old friend of mine. :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts! I'm guessing most of you do read fiction. Why? What do you love most about it? Are there upsides and downsides of reading fiction? Or if you're more into non-fiction, go ahead and confess... :)

Melissa Tagg


  1. Oh, I've met some of those people who have chosen between reading fiction or nonfiction. Some read only fiction. Some read only nonfiction.
    I say, why limit yourself? The reality is, I will never finish all the books in my To Be Read pile(s).
    Why do I read fiction?
    Escape, sure, because sometimes I just want to get away from life "here" and I can't afford a round trip ticket to Newark, much less some exotic island.
    To discover ... oh, I don't know. Truth. Adventure. Romance ... all wrapped up in story. Lots and lots of different stories.
    I love story. And I believe one of the most compelling ways to present truth to people is to wrap it up in story -- like a good novel.

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  3. I still read more Non-fiction than fiction, but love writing skill examples I find in fiction, good characterizations, and have learned lots of memorable things from other times and places. Because of the Ps, I read a lot more romance than I ever did before, but usually love adventure/mystery thrillers more.

  4. I am with you Melissa - I love fiction! I have a friend that rarely reads fiction (although she says she'll read my book when it ever is published ;-)) and we have this debate often. For me, non-fiction is too much like school. I feel like I have learn something, take notes, etc. I don't feel relaxed and happy like I do when I read fiction. It will never draw me like a great story!

  5. Beth, I agree - why limit ourselves? (Thought if someone told me I had to choose between fiction or non-fiction for the rest of my life, it'd be an easy choice.) I love what you said about wrapping truth up in a story -awesome!

  6. Dee, yay for romance. :) Hehehe...no, but seriously, I think reading both fiction and non is great way to balance yourself as a writer. You have a beautiful way with words, that comes out whether you're writing a blog post or a story...

  7. Chris, I wonder if that's why Jesus taught so often in stories...if he knew so many of us humans are wired to respond to story in a different way than we respond to straight teaching. I mean, he obviously did both, but yeah, I think there's a reason he told so many stories - they stick in our brains.

  8. I'm a diehard fiction reader. When I was little, fiction helped me escape the turmoil in my homeworld (notice how I threw in that story crafting term??) As a happily ever girl, I craved romances. And that's what I write today. :) I read to escape, go on adventures beyond my backyard, and learn--both something from the novel and spiritual truth.

    I'm not a huge non-fic reader. And if I admit I'm not much of a classics reader, does that make me less of a writer...a person??

  9. No, Lisa! It makes you more like me! lol. I'm not much of a classics reader, either. I've tried. Oh how I've tried. But I get so bogged down. My favorite, you guessed it... romantic suspense. Or just plain suspense. I like trying to figure out who did it. I love getting involved in the characters' lives and have many times hated for a book to end. I will even keep reading a poorly written book if the characters engage me. :)

  10. I like both, but read WAY more fiction. In fact, I can't remember the last non-fiction book I read other than a craft book...because there isn't enough time to fit in all the authors' novels I want to read AND read non-fiction. I'm soooo with you on my love of story, going to places and times I can't really go in real life, and learning from characters and what they go through.

  11. Haha, Lisa, no I think that makes you normal. I do love certain classics (P&P, for instance) but others make me yawn. :) And kudos for throwing in the storycrafting term!

  12. Pat, I'm with you on having times when you've hated coming to the end of a book. Those are the ones I end up re-reading and re-reading. I know some people never reread books, but I do all the time...

  13. Lindsay, what craft books are you reading? I'm in the same boat as you - not enough time for everything I want to read. My nonfiction intake is pretty much limited to devotional reading and craft books.

  14. Melissa, loved this. :) My hubby rarely reads fiction, but he'll read my scenes, if I ask him. Okay, and bribe him with chcolate. :)

    I LOVE fiction. Always have. I read non-fiction with the hope of becoming more well-rounded as a person. I read on topics I want to know more about.

    I love story. I love seeing characters develop. Certain books have also brought about healing for my spirit when life has winged me with hurts and disappointments. Stories minister to an emotional need. And, like Beth, I like to read truth. Sometimes it's easier to read it than hear it from someone I know. :) Fiction is my word addiction of choice. :)

  15. I love it, Jeanne! "Fiction is my word addiction of choice." That's great. :)

    I so agree with you, too - sometimes it is easier to read truth, glean it from a story, than being told it...

  16. I think I was a late bloomer as I didn't start really reading or writing until I was in my twenties.

    I enjoy some Non-fiction, but primarily read fiction. I'm a wanderer at heart, and I love how from my couch (or bedroom in the wee hours, or the doctor's office) I can have grand adventures, and be swept up in romances.

    I've heard people say Christians should only read non-fiction, but I've honestly had the most edifying experiences seeing what God has done in the lives of fictional characters- how God has worked things out for them.

    Natalia Gortova

  17. I read both. I love fiction because it gives you an opportunity to learn without the oppressing unintentional condemnation that can come with some non-fiction books. I guess what I mean is, I never go into a fiction book with my shields up. I usually meander into the greater truth of the book. It's like Tim Downs says: fiction disarms a reader to hear the truth and that is also why I write it.

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  19. What's with blogger? Displaying the same comment twice? Weird.

  20. Oh yes, I love fiction! I love it because of all the reasons you mentioned. The escape, adventure, romance, and that unnamed emotion that just gets me down deep in my soul when I read about a life well traveled...even though it may have some bumps along the road.

    Mmmmm, fiction, it does a body good!

  21. Natalia, thanks so much for stopping by! I sooo disagree with people who say Christians shouldn't read fiction. Um...Jesus told stories! Yes, His stories contain truth. And so do ours. Not that I think everyone HAS to read fiction...just saying I don't agree that we shouldn't. :)

  22. Ooh, I love that quote from Tim Downs, Ginger. Perfect!! And...agreed. :)

  23. We're totally on the same page, Sherrinda. Yay for stories!