It’s time for our second This Versus That post. Today’s theme is fiction versus non-fiction. We’ll begin by looking at the benefits of reading fiction.
Fiction teaches lessons in an interesting and applicable way.
True-to-life stories are a good way to teach life lessons. Sometimes a lesson is easier to understand when you can see first-hand how it applies to real life.
This is especially the case with children who are still figuring out how to apply things for themselves. By giving them a story to read about the importance of obeying their parents or being kind to others, they can see the consequences of not doing right or the blessings of doing right.
Teens and adults enjoy learning lessons from stories as well. I enjoy fiction stories that teach a Christian lesson and have been encouraged in my Christian walk by various fiction books. Fiction that is written realistically is a simple way to learn important life lessons.
Fiction is easy to comprehend.
Some complicated things are made easier to understand when they are written in story form. A dialogue with two people discussing a scientific principle is generally easier to follow than a textbook description of the same principle. Of course non-fiction textbooks are necessary for studying, as will be discussed in the non-fiction section.
It is also easier to learn about history from historical fiction than it is from a history book. However, when reading historical fiction, we do need to remember that everything isn’t true.
My favorite historical fiction author is G. A. Henty. In his books, he has the fictional story of the protagonist, but he also includes detailed and accurate accounts of most important events, especially the wars, in history. From his books I have learned a lot about various historical events. In fact, my Western Civilization class in college was easier for me because of what I had learned from Henty’s books.
The Master Storyteller used fictional stories or parables.
Jesus used parables in his teaching. That was one of the main ways that He taught the crowds who followed Him. He hid the truths of His teaching in the stories that He told, and it was up to those who were genuinely seeking Him to search for the meaning of the stories. Two of my favorite parables are the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The parables, though set in times and cultural customs very different to what most of us are used to, were true-to-life and about familiar topics to the people to whom Jesus told them. He made the stories applicable to His audience, talking about farmers, kings, land-owners, and travelers. I believe we can learn from His example and use stories to teach important lessons.
Fiction is relaxing.
I find that when I am feeling tired or stressed, it is relaxing for me to read fiction. When my brain is tired and needs a rest, fiction is what I want to read since it doesn’t take as much concentration. And choosing to read fiction to relax doesn’t have to mean that the reading material isn’t edifying or beneficial in some way. As I mentioned above, fiction can be educational and helpful.
Reading before bed is a common occurrence for me. Sometimes it results in my staying up later than I should, but at other times I get relaxed and sleepy while reading and then fall asleep in a few minutes after I put my book on the nightstand. Christian fiction or historical fiction is what I am usually reading at these times, since it is generally easier reading than non-fiction.
Now it’s time to move on to the next segment of our Fiction Versus Non-fiction post: the benefits of non-fiction.
Non-fiction is usually true.
Notice I said usually. Just because something is marked as non-fiction doesn’t necessarily make it true. We still need to analyze our non-fiction to make sure it is in agreement with God’s Word and that it is accurate in other areas as well.
That being said, biographies, educational books, and Christian non-fiction books that agree with God’s Word are good sources of true information. All books besides the Bible require a certain amount of analyzing for truth and error, but good quality non-fiction books generally require less analysis than fiction books.
Non-fiction can tell of amazing happenings.
Biographies and other true accounts are what come to mind when I think of some of the amazing happenings through history. Anyone can dream up a fantastic story that would be mind-blowing if it had really happened, but if it’s not true, it doesn’t have quite the same effect.
When we read a biography about a missionary and read all the amazing things that God did in that person’s life, it is encouraging. I have also read some fictional missionary stories, and while they were good and interesting, it wasn’t the same knowing that they didn’t really happen.
Reading a true story and seeing God’s Hand at work is so encouraging and strengthens our faith. That is why the Bible stories about people like Joseph, David, and Esther are so faith-building. They show God’s power and the way He cares for His children and uses them to further His plan.
Non-fiction allows us to learn from real-life experiences.
In fiction we can read true-to-life stories, but in non-fiction we can read stories that have actually happened. We can read stories about ordinary people like us and learn from what happened to them. We can learn from their successes and their failures.
When we read a true story, we see the real consequences for someone’s mistakes or sins. We also see the real blessings they had for doing right. We may learn about bad things that have really happened, but we also see the good things that have happened. There is so much to learn from real stories.
Non-fiction is necessary for studying in a particular field.
Everything can’t be learned from a story. How would you like to visit a dentist who only learned about teeth by reading stories? I know I wouldn’t. I would want a dentist who had studied scientific textbooks and who had learned all the most up-to-date information about teeth and everything related to them.
To become knowledgeable in a particular field, we will have to read non-fiction and lots of it. My textbooks in college weren’t all interesting, but I learned a lot that I couldn’t have really learned by reading stories. Some things can be learned from stories and the simple concepts of most things can be explained to a certain extent in a story form. But there is a lot that can’t be taught through stories.
Fiction Versus Non-fiction: Which wins out?
My conclusion is that fiction is fine in moderation, but should not be the only kind of books that we read. And there are some genres of fiction that I personally avoid reading. I know some people have a conviction against reading fiction, and I respect them for that. But for me personally, I do not have a problem with reading fiction. I am in fact a fiction writer.
However, I do think we can go overboard with too much fiction so that we lose our appetite for non-fiction. There should be a balance between fiction and non-fiction reading. I try to make sure that I read both. That is why I include both fiction and non-fiction in my monthly reading challenges.
What are your thoughts on this topic? On a regular basis do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?