The Blogpost with the Dragon Tattoo: In Praise of Fiction

I have been a reader as long as I can remember.  I was reading Choose Your Own Adventure books in the 4th grade and it seems like I have always loved reading.  When I started Seminary, I learned quickly that I would not be doing any “pleasure reading.”  The workload in seminary was such that I learned to always be reading.  I could find time to watch a basketball game as long as I had a text in hand and would read during commercials.  This reading, however, was not for fun.  It was classwork and it was necessary for my progress as a student.  Somewhere along the way I began to enjoy reading non-fiction and the learning it provided.  I especially developed a love for reading apologetic works.  And a quick look at my reading list over the past few years will show you that I rarely read anything other than non-fiction. The one exception to this has been audio books.  I had a 10+ hour trip between my hometown and where I lived for the last few years.  And I found that audio books that are well-read are perfect for passing time.  I also found that fiction works much better for passing time than non-fiction.

Then, 2 years ago I began systematically trying to read books that are considered great works of fiction. Only two of those books really captured my imagination; Les Miserables, and Jude the Obscure.  Otherwise I read those books out of a sort of sense of duty.  I still had not recaptured my love of reading fiction.

For Christmas this year I got a Kindle.  (I know I wrote a whole post about how I wouldn’t, but it was a gift.  I’ll probably write a review of it before long.) I used the occasion of getting a kindle as a catalyst for re-reading the The Wheel of Time Series.  I read books 1-9 back in college, then I quit reading them for fear that they would never end.  Now that Robert Jordan has died and Brandon Sanderson is finishing the series I know that there is only 1 book remaining and it appears that it is on pace to be finished in 2011.  So I began at book 2 and have read those books every day for two months.

There really is nothing like reading fiction for both relaxing and for entertainment.  I wonder if there is a word for the phenomenon that is reading.  Because at some point you stop processing words and begin to see the story in your mind’s eye.  It is the reason no movie ever lives up to the book, because so much of the drama, certainly all the images from a work of fiction occur in the imagination.  Images on a screen have no choice but to look like the images on the screen.  Every person who reads a book sees a different face on the characters and every person sees a different mental picture of the events.

Adults are limited in the realm of imagination.  I’m not sure why imagination fades with age, but clearly it does.  Fiction allows that imagination to return.  It is typically confined to the story, but still it is imagination and it can only be good for the reader.

I’m sure that I have just written an entire post that had no need to be written.  Stories are not going anywhere, I know that.  But I am somebody who had nearly gotten completely away from reading fiction.  I thought I might encourage others of you in the same boat to return.  Reading fiction is a great escape

(BTW if you know if there is a word that describes the way a story occurs in your mind rather than on a page, let me know in the comments.)