Reading Fiction Could Make You a Better Writer and a Better Friend

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book and Plant Sale 2009
Photo Credit: University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

If you happened to catch Part 1 or Part 2 of my summer reading list you probably noticed I don't read a lot of fiction. Well, actually, as a teacher of early American literature I read plenty of fiction by the likes of Kate Chopin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But when it comes to what I read in my free time it's usually non-fiction such as memoirs or collections of personal essays. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm one of those pretentious pricks who say things like "It's such a waste of time to read fiction. I need something real." But because I consider myself a creative non-fiction writer, I mostly read creative non-fiction.

This needs to change. I need to add more fiction to my reading repertoire. Essayists, journalists and memoirists can learn a lot from fiction. Regardless of genre, every writer and every artist is striving to tell a story. What better way to learn the art of storytelling than from great novels and short stories? Fiction, for example, teaches us that stories don't always have to be linear. It's OK to start in the middle or even at the end. 

But wait there's more! 

Reading more fiction might also make you more popular. It's true. From the Harvard Business Review Blog:
“Over the past decade, academic researchers…from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.”
So reading more fiction could make me a better writer and a better friend. That's a pretty sweet deal.

What are some of your favorite works of fiction? 


  1. I've been such a bad friend this year, AND it's taken me 7 months to finish a book. I agree with Harvard.