Updated: Aug 13
As a professional executive coach and life coach, I am often asked about my choice to write and publish fiction books instead of non-fiction. My answer is twofold: I enjoy reading fiction and hence write it, and fiction has its dedicated readership. I am often met with raised eyebrows with that answer. “Who reads fiction?” That is the largely implicit and sometimes explicit question that follows.
Who Reads? Who Reads Fiction?
Contrary to perceptions, Indians do read. Statistics reveal that, on average, Indians dedicate a remarkable 10 hours and 42 minutes each week to the enriching pursuit of reading books, the most by any country.
While non-fiction and academic books take a sizeable portion of this readership, the adult and children’s fiction market put together comprised a whooping 11.8 million books by volume, constituting 44% of the total reading market (excluding academic books), as per a Nielsen survey. By no means an insignificant number demonstrating the widespread appeal of fiction across all walks of life.
Why should working professionals read fiction?
Reading fiction holds a treasure trove of advantages. Fiction is often seen as a form of entertainment, but it can also be a powerful tool for personal and professional development. Individuals can also use fiction to de-stress. Working professionals can benefit from reading fiction in several ways:
1. Improves Empathy
Fiction has the remarkable ability to enhance empathy among readers. By immersing ourselves in the lives of fictional characters, we develop a deeper understanding and compassion for others. Through their triumphs, struggles, and emotions, we learn to relate to people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Fictional narratives enable us to walk in someone else’s shoes, fostering empathy, a vital quality in our interconnected world.
For instance, reading a novel that portrays the experiences of individuals in war-torn regions can provide us with insights into their challenges and victories. By witnessing their struggles, we develop a greater appreciation for the complexity of the human experience and cultivate a sense of empathy that extends beyond the pages of a book.
Research supports the notion that fiction enhances empathy by engaging the same neural pathways in our brains that are activated during real-life social interactions. Engaging with fictional narratives exercises our empathetic muscles, leading to increased emotional intelligence and a greater understanding of others.
2. Boosts Creativity
Reading fiction is a wellspring of creativity. It stimulates imagination, encouraging us to explore new ideas, perspectives, and possibilities. Through vivid descriptions, captivating plots, and well-developed characters, fiction fuels our creative thinking.
When we engage with fiction, we encounter unique concepts, alternative realities, and innovative problem-solving approaches. These imaginative storytelling elements inspire us to think more creatively in our own lives. We may find ourselves approaching challenges with fresh insights, breaking free from conventional thought patterns, and envisioning innovative solutions.
In a world that values innovation and originality, fiction serves as a catalyst for cultivating our creative potential.
3. Expands Vocabulary
One of the often-overlooked benefits of reading fiction is its power to expand our vocabulary. We encounter a rich tapestry of words, phrases, and linguistic styles within the pages of novels and stories. Authors carefully craft their narratives, introducing us to new expressions, idioms, and literary devices.
Through engaging with well-written fiction, we develop a broader lexicon, enabling us to communicate more effectively and eloquently. A robust vocabulary enhances our writing and speaking skills, empowering us to express our thoughts and ideas with precision and clarity.
Moreover, a strong vocabulary boosts our confidence in social and professional settings, allowing us to engage in articulate conversations, make persuasive arguments, and leave a lasting impression.
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4. Improves Writing Skills
Reading fiction is a powerful tool for improving our writing skills. As we engage with well-crafted stories, we unconsciously absorb skilled authors’ techniques and strategies. We gain insights into narrative structure, character development, pacing, dialogue, and the art of creating intrigue.
By observing how experienced writers craft their sentences, construct their paragraphs, and weave their stories together, we glean valuable lessons in the craft of writing. This newfound understanding can be applied to our own writing endeavours, enabling us to create more compelling narratives, captivating essays, and persuasive arguments.
Furthermore, reading fiction exposes us to diverse writing styles and voices, expanding our literary horizons and inspiring us to experiment with our writing.
Research also supports the claim that reading fiction improves writing skills by internalizing grammar, syntax, and storytelling techniques in a natural and immersive manner.
5. Provides Relaxation and Stress Relief
In our fast-paced lives, reading fiction offers a much-needed escape and a source of relaxation and stress relief. Engaging with captivating stories transports us to other worlds, momentarily allowing us to detach from our problems and find solace within the pages of a book.
Fictional narratives provide a therapeutic form of escapism, offering entertainment and respite from the demands of reality. By immersing ourselves in well-written fiction, we trigger our imagination, evoke emotions, and experience a sense of rejuvenation.
Multiple studies have demonstrated the stress-reducing benefits of reading fiction. It has been shown to lower heart rate, reduce cortisol levels, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Engaging with fiction allows us to find solace, relaxation, and rejuvenation amidst the chaos of our daily lives.
6. Fosters a Love for Learning
Reading fiction nurtures a love for learning by awakening our curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Fictional narratives often touch on various subjects, ranging from historical events and cultural traditions to scientific concepts and philosophical ideas.
When we encounter well-researched and thought-provoking stories, they inspire us to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world. Fiction serves as a gateway to continuous learning, encouraging us to seek out non-fiction books, articles, and resources to delve deeper into topics that captivate our interest.
This love for learning is invaluable in an era of rapidly expanding knowledge, and adaptability is crucial. By cultivating a passion for learning through fiction, we develop a mindset of lifelong curiosity and intellectual growth.
Research also suggests that reading fiction enhances cognitive abilities, including memory retention, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Engaging with complex narratives and following intricate plotlines exercises our mental faculties, contributing to cognitive agility and mental sharpness.
7. Expands Knowledge
Reading fiction is an enjoyable experience and an opportunity to expand our knowledge. Novels and stories offer windows into different cultures, historical periods, and scientific concepts. They provide a unique avenue for learning about the world without leaving the comfort of our homes.
We can travel to distant lands, immerse ourselves in historical eras, and explore scientific phenomena through fiction.
Fictional narratives bring facts and information to life, allowing us to develop a deeper understanding of various subjects. Whether learning about the customs and traditions of a particular culture or gaining insights into scientific theories, fiction expands our knowledge in engaging and memorable ways.
Moreover, fiction enables us to connect emotionally with the knowledge we acquire. The experiences and emotions of fictional characters enhance our retention and comprehension of the information presented, making it more relatable and impactful.
8. Provides Entertainment
At its core, fiction is a form of entertainment. Reading a captivating story, whether a suspenseful thriller, a heartwarming romance, or an epic adventure, offers a pleasurable and enjoyable experience.
Through well-crafted narratives, vivid descriptions, and skilful characterization, fiction allows us to engage our imagination and emotions. We become invested in the lives of the characters, eagerly turning pages to unravel their stories.
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9. Builds Social Skills
Reading fiction plays a significant role in developing better social skills.
Engaging with fictional narratives gives us insights into human behaviour, relationships, and emotional dynamics. Through the experiences and interactions of characters, we expand our understanding of different personalities, motivations, and perspectives.
Fiction allows us to step into the shoes of diverse characters and witness their challenges, triumphs, and growth. By immersing ourselves in their journeys, we develop empathy, understanding, and the ability to relate to others on a deeper level. This enhanced social awareness and emotional intelligence are essential components of effective communication and building meaningful connections.
Furthermore, fiction often presents complex social situations and conflicts that mirror real-life scenarios. Observing how characters navigate these challenges gives us valuable lessons in interpersonal dynamics, conflict resolution, and effective communication. This knowledge can be applied to our own lives, enabling us to navigate social interactions with greater empathy, understanding, and skill.
In today’s world, where relationships and effective communication are crucial, developing strong social skills through reading fiction can profoundly impact our personal and professional lives.
10. Improves Overall Well-being
Reading fiction has a holistic impact on our overall well-being. Engaging with captivating stories, compelling characters, and thought-provoking narratives can elicit myriad emotions and experiences, contributing to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Fiction allows us to experience a broad spectrum of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and introspection. By connecting with characters’ journeys, we explore different facets of the human experience, expanding our emotional intelligence and self-awareness. This emotional engagement and exploration through fiction can lead to personal growth, resilience, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.
Studies have shown that reading fiction can positively affect mental health, reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Immersing ourselves in a captivating story provides a temporary escape from our worries and allows us to gain perspective, find solace, and recharge. An intentional and mindful reading experience can help reduce stress levels, improve concentration, and foster a sense of calm and well-being.
What Are The Benefits of Reading Fiction? The Last Word
In today’s fast-paced and digitally connected world, where our attention is constantly divided, and our minds are often overwhelmed, reading fiction provides a much-needed pause, allowing us to recharge, rejuvenate, and nurture our overall well-being. As a professional executive coach and life coach, I have personally witnessed the transformative power of reading fiction. It has enriched my life in numerous ways and continues to be a source of inspiration, knowledge, and solace.
Reading fiction offers a multitude of benefits, from improving empathy to improving overall well-being. The advantages extend far beyond entertainment to shape our perspectives, interactions, and personal growth.
I encourage you to make reading fiction a regular part of your routine. Set aside some dedicated time to immerse yourself in captivating stories, explore different genres and authors, and embark on literary adventures. Allow short stories and novels to broaden your horizons and ignite your imagination.
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There is a power to reading fiction. Start today, and let the world of fiction guide you to new perspectives, empathy, creativity, and personal growth.
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion and writes every day. Her debut short story collection 'A Slice of Life' was named among India’s top three fiction works by Writefluence, and her debut novel 'A Price to Love' found a mention in the Top 50 books of 2022 by Delhi Wire. She is also the first-prize winner of the prestigious Bharat Award for Literature-2023 for her short story ‘Purchased Love’, and the only Asian to be named in the Top 20 flash fiction winners list in the Spring 2022 contest of the prestigious US-based Women On Writing (WOW!) magazine for women writers. Her award-winning short stories have been featured in prominent anthologies and literary ezines around the globe. You can know more about Smita's writings at https://www.smitaswritepen.com/