Fiction or Not?

Do you think reading fiction is obsolete?

With such an abundance of audio and visual material nowadays, reading itself is struggling to keep its niche. We watch everything. We listen to everybody. It is a visual turn in culture – it is a digital age. During the day, we do some reading: scrolling down news, checking emails, and peeking at social media posts. With so much information intake every day, our brain refuses to keep working at night. We often opt for watching another episode of this new TV show or for aimlessly streaming YouTube videos about cars, fashion, food, or design. It is relaxing and easy. It is what everyone else is doing after a hard day of work, we think.

Reading practice is slowly becoming an endangered species. And reading fiction, particularly, feels almost extinct. Why read fiction? Many people told me that fiction was useless. It does not give you direct practical advice on life. It does not teach you about present realities. It is imaginative and, hence, unrealistic. It is boring. If it is good, it will probably be adapted to screen, so why bother reading it when in a few months, there will be a movie? Recently my boyfriend was genuinely surprised when he heard me laughing my head off while reading a fiction book. It was strange for him to see me peacefully reading a book, having my solo experience, and then all of a sudden cracking up with laughter and breaking the solemn silence of the room. Yes, I told him, fiction can make you laugh. In fact, it can be as funny, if not more, as a TV comedy.

It is sad that fiction does not have the same status as it used to be. Out of my 85 students this semester, only 10 said they were reading fiction occasionally. What about the rest? Very often people do not like fiction books because they had a bad experience before. They might have hated their English teacher, or maybe they were forced to read the books they did not want at school. They might have just picked the wrong book at the store and developed a dislike for literature in general. Or they failed at finding their genre and style of writing. They got disappointed. They did not give it another try.

Fiction literature deserves a chance. Once you find the right book, the right author, and the right moment in life, you will understand the power of fiction. It can give an experience no other medium can. Fiction is only fictional until you read it and make it real for yourself.