I’ve loved to read and write for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I read some of everything: classics, poetry, fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, romance, historical fiction, etc. That lasted until I went to grad school.
Then I turned into a book snob.
I was studying history and landscape architecture, and, honestly, I didn’t have time to read anything but nonfiction. It was all history, biography, and psychology. I loved it, and I didn’t really miss fiction at that point. I also got my first writing job creating scripts for educational software programs, and that meant spending even more time in the nonfiction world. I thought, “This stuff is real–it’s what matters the most.”
Then I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I was sick on bed rest most of the time. My husband started bringing me stacks of books from the library–whatever he thought looked interesting–and I read about a book a day. Some of it was nonfiction, but it was all across the board again, and I rediscovered the joys of fiction.
Now I’ve repented of my nonfiction snobbery. With two little kids, teaching a class at the university, and my own writing, I don’t have a lot of time for extra reading, but Sunday afternoons are dedicated quiet time, and I spend them reading–always fiction. It leaves me refreshed and ready to jump back into life. I also volunteer at my daughter’s school library, so I get to relive the thrill of discovering great books through the kids there.
I understand better now why fiction matters. Nonfiction is still great. It teaches us facts as we currently understand them. But good fiction teaches us truth. It takes the vastness of the human experience and encapsulates a portion of it into something we can digest. It offers a temporary escape from our own problems and teaches us things about ourselves and other people that can help us face things better when we shut the book and wander back into our own life.
That is the beauty of fiction.