I struggle with building habits. I’m lazier more often than I am productive. And I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do.
But there is one habit that I have never have a hard time sticking with. and that’s reading.
I’ve always loved to read. As a kid, I devoured book after book, and the need to read has never really left me. I even studied literature in college.
Every night before I go to sleep, you can find me tucked up in bed with my nose deep in a book. Without fail.
But you won’t find me reading the latest book on entrepreneurship or how to get more work done in less time. No, I almost exclusively read fiction.
I know what you may be thinking. But Maria, what could you possibly gain from reading fiction?
But the truth is I get so much more out of reading fiction than I do reading non-fiction. Here’s why you should consider reading more fiction too:
Fiction is fun.
I’ve seen a lot of articles on Medium claiming that “these 10 books will change your life” and the list is almost always non-fiction books. But where does it say that what you read needs to change your life? I’ve read plenty of books that haven’t changed my life. But the ones that did change my life were almost always fiction, not non-fiction.
Your goal when reading shouldn’t be to gain some life-changing secret, some way to hack your productivity or make your millions. You should read solely for the sake of reading.
Reading, first and foremost, is a hobby that is meant to be enjoyed. If you’re not enjoying what you’re reading, why even read at all? Reading has even been proven to reduce stress and actually make you happier. But if you’re only reading to find the pot at the end of the rainbow, are you really enjoying yourself?
Fiction makes you smarter.
When you read regularly, you’re constantly taking in new words and phrases. That in turn will help you build your vocabulary and become a more accomplished wordsmith yourself.
And if you’re an aspiring writer, as many here on Medium are, vocabulary is important.
Reading fiction gives you not only new words, but also new ways of expressing yourself. One writer may describe a character or a scene in a way that makes you think differently. This will then affect your own writing and help you grow.
Fiction teaches you how to write.
Fiction shares new perspectives.
In a world that is characterized by so much hate and division, fiction is one way to bring people together. When you read a piece of fiction, you put yourself inside the head of a completely different person. Sometimes this means a person from a different era or a different world. But it could also mean a different gender, sexual orientation, race, culture or age.
Reading allows us to see the world through the eyes of someone else. And when you understand someone else’s experience of the world, you have greater empathy for people in the real world.
Fiction, especially through books, is so powerful in its ability to give us a deep understanding of others. Reading allows you to dive in and experience someone else’s world in a wholehearted way. And I think a lot of that is missing from non-fiction, self-help style books.
When you read a self-help book, you’re looking to gain something for yourself. When you read fiction, you may be looking to gain enjoyment for yourself, but you also unexpectedly gain knowledge that you probably weren’t looking for in the first place, but will benefit you all the same.
Fiction gives you life lessons.
As children, stories were how we learned. They gave us valuable lessons that we carried with us throughout our lives. Lessons about friendship, love and growing up.
But in adulthood, there is still room for life lessons. So many of the books I read today teach me things that are just as valuable as the lessons I learned from my childhood books. These lessons may not be as obvious as the ones given in self-help books, but they are often more profound.
I’m not saying you should entirely give up on self-help books. If they work for you, then great. But consider adding some fiction books into your reading routine. You may be surprised at what you find.