From the Archives – Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?

In my former career as a “bean-counter,” I rarely allowed myself to read anything other than business books. Books were merely tools utilized to further my career. The payback period had to be short and the return on investment had to be high. I needed to see an immediate benefit, in the form of increased knowledge, from the time I had invested in reading. Time was money and I didn’t have the luxury of wasting it on nonsensical stories.

Somewhere along the way the joy I felt from spending lazy afternoons curled up with a good book was replaced by the notion that fiction held no value. Reading fiction had become a guilty pleasure. It was as if I had adopted an ascetic lifestyle, sworn an oath akin to celibacy, abstaining from the joy of reading, not because it was what I wanted but because it was expected if I were to grow intellectually. A work of fiction was just an invented story about people who never existed; and therefore, useless information. Nothing could be gained from it so naturally it held no merit. “Thou shalt not read fiction,” became my mantra.

On the rare occasion that I allowed myself to read a work of fiction I typically couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. I’d become completely wrapped up in this “sinful” pursuit, reading late into the night. These transgressions were worthy of a good self-flogging which often took the form of force feeding another business book. I never got much joy from reading a business book so it was  an appropriate punishment. I usually had to force myself to finish it and would skim pages just to get through it.

Then I’d come across a favorite quote, gaze longingly at the words, and marvel at how a single sentence could stir my soul. The longing to read good fiction would be rekindled. I found that despite my efforts to suppress my affection for fiction, abstinence made the heart grow fonder.

Now, I never miss an opportunity to read fiction. It transports you to different worlds that you may not get to explore otherwise. It allows you to see life through someone else’s eyes, to be exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. It can deepen your life experiences.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin

Reading fiction does have merit. It gets the creative juices flowing. It stimulates the imagination.

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...
English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ~ Albert Einstein

Now, it seems I always have a book in my hand, and undoubtedly, it is fiction.

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5 thoughts on “From the Archives – Reading Fiction: Guilty Pleasure or Worthy Pursuit?”

  1. Ah, another bean-counter. There are many of us who leave the accounting world to write books. I’m counting beans part time, but my true love is fiction–reading and writing. I’ve always had a love of books, thanks to my mom. There is definite value in the worthy pursuit of reading fiction of all sorts. Like you said, it transports you to different worlds. Great post and happy anniversary to your blog!

  2. I could not imagine a world without fiction. My business book library is impressive, but they are also in pristine condition! Perhaps your focus can be reversed by reading a business book and then giving yourself the reward of fiction?

    1. Ha! Ha! After spending two decades in the insurance and financial services industries, I believe I’ve read enough business books to last a lifetime. I’m trying to tip the scales the other way 😉

  3. So true. I spent years refusing to read fiction. I thought it was a waste of time and there were too many worthwhile books that I needed to read to further my career. Now I’ve completely flipped. I regret my years of NOT reading more fiction. Great post!

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