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Friday, February 28, 2014

Reading Fiction... Its Necessity. Its Importance.


I have written about the benefits of reading. But now, I want to stress a little more on fiction. Reading non-fiction also has its advantages, but there is so much, one can take from reading fiction; mentally. Charles W. Eliot once said that ‘Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers’.

There have been quite a few studies about reading and reading fiction, in particular. One advantage, which I thought was so true, was that it helps in building empathy. How many times have I read Harper Lee's ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ before I found myself seeing the truth in what Atticus Finch had to say, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’. 

Not only in whatever he said but in the identification, I felt with the character, Scout Finch. Scout herself was a tomboy, she enjoyed climbing trees, getting messy and running around with friends. Maybe it was because I was younger when I first read the book that it took me very little time to empathise with Scout’s character.

By following Atticus’s advice, there was an understanding which Scout felt with various other characters. Her brother Jem, ‘Boo’ Radley and Miss Caroline.  The problems with Aunt Alexandra are something I faced too, with my grandmother and mother. As she constantly pesters Scout about wearing dresses, I was pestered similarity by my mother. Yet to see the difference, it took me Atticus’ words and a little more pestering, before I actually changed. (Not too much, tough)

When I was growing up, I found myself reading quite a bit of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The brain gets amazing exercise. I saw myself reading and re-reading the pages to understand the points, which they make in the book, to see if I could get to the end before Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Once in a while, I did too. Your problem solving skills could also benefit from reading similar novels.

Let us remind ourselves of all the stuff, which we read and studied in school. I found myself understanding and sympathising, when I read historical novels, which had subjects, which I could relate to chapters in my history text book. ‘The Empire of the Moghul' series by Alex Rutherford, to Indu Sundaresan’s ‘Taj Trilogy’ and ‘The Mountain of Light’, all have subjects pretty close to the topics which, we studied in school (Not with too much interest though).

Medical and psychological aspects also are dealt with and understood better through fiction. Whether it was Robin Cook’s ‘Coma’ or Ken Kesey’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. These books have us understanding the problems, while simultaneously increasing our knowledge. They make you kinder because you actually get what is wrong with somebody afflicted with a particular illness.

Science fiction helps us with concepts, which we are either, not used to or have never seen. For example, HG WellsThe Time Machine’ or even JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ and his invisibility cloak. Both these were merely concepts yesterday, but today they could almost be reality. 

Arthur C Clarke said in his novel, 2001: A Space
Odyssey’… “One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers... Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him”. News on the digital medium got a boost with this book.

Geography is a subject too, for a few novels. For example, the English geography, complete with its hills and rivers are explained in Enid Blyton’s books, while Afghanistan’s hills are handled in Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns’. The two also dealt with the historical and sociological aspects of the place, as well.
 
‘Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson and this statement has never been truer, when you read these books.  Due to the novels you have read, you become sharper and more open to ideas and experiences, which in turn make one’s decision making easier. Imagination grows as does a person’s intellect.

So, which fiction is up for grabs, today? :)
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