My wife, Debra, and my oldest daughter work part-time at a used bookstore, Prospero’s, in Old Town Manassas. They love the conversations with customers about books, history and life. They also love giving recommendations when a customer is just browsing or interested in something different.
Several weeks ago, my wife was ringing up a sale for a woman who was buying a couple of non-fiction books. As they were talking, the woman told her very adamantly that fiction was a complete waste of time. Debra was speechless and so was I when she shared the story with me.
This got me thinking. People who do not read fiction are missing out on timeless truths and values from a relational perspective. I’ll try to explain. There are many great books on leadership, marketing, and business along with other non-fiction books. I can think of a handful that have made an impact in my life like John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership or Collins’ Good to Great. I have applied their principles to my business and leadership opportunities, but it is the fiction that often drives home some of these principles because I connected with characters in the story as they wrestle with the principles.
I’ll give you an example. Many leadership books talk about how grudges can destroy business and family relationships and drive the grudge holder to make irrational, selfish decisions. In theory, I understand this, but it wasn’t until I read Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel that I truly understood it. I connected with the characters as I became a part of their story and realized that could easily be me.
For a while there, I stopped reading fiction as a new business owner. Not by a conscious choice, but because I thought I needed to learn as much as I can from business and leadership books. What happened was I stopped learning. The same principles were being told in a different format over and over. It wasn’t until my wife told me about the encounter with the lady that I started thinking about all the great fiction I have ready from Crime and Punishment and Jane Eyre to the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson. I realized at that time that fiction is just as valuable as non-fiction…if not more valuable. I forgot that there is so much I can learn from fiction.
Since then, I have begun to read fiction again, mostly before bed, to unwind and enjoy a good story. It is way to step out of reality for a bit and give my mind a break, but also to learn the truths and principles from a different perspective. I am currently reading the Harry Potter series. Who knows what principles I will learn from Harry Potter, Hagrid or Dumbledore. Maybe I won’t learn anything new. Maybe through a connection with the characters I’ll learn something about myself. Who knows…but I do know this. I am enjoying it!
Either way, fiction is very valuable and shouldn’t be blown off as a waste of time. To think that, I believe, is truly ignorance. Take time to read a fiction. It is because of my wife that I love to read. Her love for books and many, many recommendations over the years has opened my eyes to a new level of enjoyment and learning.
Pick up a fiction book if for nothing else, to relax, enjoy a good story and to give your mind a break…but also see the value in learning from fiction.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorites:
- My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok
- Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer
- Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
- Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English – Natasha Solomons
- The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
- The Mark of the Lion Trilogy – Francine Rivers
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Life with Pi – Yann Martel
- The Giver – Lois Lowry
As a side note…many of these books are also movies, but the book is always better. Enjoy!