January 4, 2013 13 Comments
I have an unusual New Year’s commitment for someone as widely-read as myself. It’s not to read more history, more biographies, or even more theologically-grounded books. It’s to read more fiction. I’ve thought through this. Since picking up a book is often a large commitment, I have discovered that this will do me (and possibly you) some good in a variety of different ways.
The first being my line of work as an author myself. I haven’t yet found that great biography to pen, but ideally, with every other writer, I would like to write the next great American novel. I study movies in a different light than most people (sometimes to the detriment of my wife), analyzing the pacing of plot-points, the story line, the character-development … but fictional books will serve me a lot better than movies will in this regard.
But how can fiction serve you? What good could it be? Isn’t fiction a waste of time? Well, I used to think that for many years, and yes, sometimes – many times – it can be. That’s why book recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. In years past, if I was going to read fiction, it would just have to be classic American or British fiction. But now I’m slowly learning that contemporary fiction can do some good.
1) Fiction can help shape or break a worldview
Oftentimes an author will write about a certain topic because they’re passionate about it. And more often than not, that topic will be explored from every angle from a singular point of view. For instance, if you read the book Unwind by Shusterman, it may cause you to realize the horrors of abortion. The Jungle by Sinclair has been known to turn convince many people to become vegetarians.
2) Fiction can help you understand or acknowledge certain worldviews
There are many belief-systems out there – hundreds that we’re not aware of, and authors tend to be the leading voices for these hidden beliefs. For Christians, be cautious seeking these systems, but become well-read for the purpose of getting to know the culture around you. We ought to know about the world we live in, so that we can engage in intelligent, thoughtful conversations with those around us who subscribe to the surrounding belief-systems.
3) Fiction can spark your imagination
This one seems obvious. But what is the first thing you thought of when you saw a book with the cover of a boy and a lion in a lifeboat in the middle of the sea? My thought, as an author myself, was, “Why didn’t I think of that!” Just look at what Lord of the Rings did for the fantasy world, and what Jurassic Park did for sci-fi and mainstream movies in general.
4) Contemporary fiction can help you write to today’s audiences
“I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading,” says writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I think we all do that. When I only read classic literature, I wrote just like it (or tired to, anyway), but much to my detriment. I never found an audience that related to my style of writing. So with the help of popular fiction like The Hunger Games, I learned to write with a more popular and modern prose.
I realize this is a partial list, but since I’m, for the most part, a newcomer to contemporary fiction, I want to hear what fiction has done for you. Please leave your comments below about how this genre has affected you, for good or for bad. And feel free to recommend books as well to help us all develop a promising reading list for 2013.
Please purchase a copy of my debut novel, The Man in the Box for your bookshelf or Kindle here.