Pleasure reading, which I’ll define as reading when not required to, seems to be a niche activity. Either people are doing it and not talking about it or not doing it at all. Or maybe my introvert circle is too small.
Within the pleasure reading community there are, apparently, as I’ve recently discovered, those who only read nonfiction books. I’m not here to tell people what to read, or that what they choose to read is not as important as what I choose. However, I’ve had two people in as many weeks state that they only read nonfiction books because there’s too much to learn and why waste valuable free time in a fantasy world. That’s fine. I’m not going to tell someone that their choice of reading material is wrong. You do you. But, as one who mostly only reads fiction, I was taken aback in both cases, but not for the reason you might think.
The frustrating part was their attitude, their implication that I’m an idiot for choosing fantasy/fiction/sci-fi. Like I’m some kind of a lesser person because I chose science fiction or fantasy over self-help or historical literature.
I’m an odd fellow. I enjoy alone time with myself or my family. I don’t care much for the realities of life. I prefer not to hang out with other people because, frankly, I find you all strange and I tend to spend too much time trying to figure you out … although passive people-watching at the mall or public gatherings is a favorite pastime of mine. I don’t care for politics, taxes, bills, chores, sports, traffic, or many of the other daily activities I’m forced to deal with or confront. There’s only so much reality I can handle each day. So, when I have precious free time, I choose to not be “here,” if you know what I mean.
I prefer to be on Mars, conjuring magic, trying to unravel a mystery, trading spice, or any number of things that are not real. It helps me escape – for a little while – the daily sludge of life that comes my way. Reading fiction helps me keep my wits. I’ll take 10 pages of Harry Potter over 400 pages of how I can gain friends and influence people any day!
The human imagination is a most remarkable thing. So many people have amazing stories to tell and worlds to create. Could you imagine a world devoid of fiction? Almost all of media starts with imagination. Music, movies, television, theatre, art … all from the imagination of remarkable people who dare to dream. Would you rather go to an art museum or a blueprint museum?
Reading fiction/fantasy/sci-fi doesn’t mean I’m stupid or that I can’t learn or that I’m not as smart as the non-fiction-only readers are. I still learn, just in different ways. I’ll read a manual in a heartbeat if it means I can save money and fix something on my own. I read a lot of articles online if I’m interested in something like science, space, programming, auto repair, bookbinding, woodworking, etc. I love watching documentaries. Just ask my wife. Did I mention I’m a programmer? I can write apps, custom software, websites, and more.
As for that “I’m better than you because I only read real world stuff” or “I don’t have time for childish fantasy novels” mindset – I hope you’re not pushing that attitude on your kids. They already have to suffer through whatever reading that is required in school. Let them unwind with something they might enjoy.
I’ll end on a more positive note. Studies have shown that reading has powerful benefits such as mental stimulation, stress reduction, knowledge, vocabulary expansion, memory improvement, stronger analytical thinking, improved focus and concentration, better writing skills, tranquility, and free entertainment. Books aren’t always free, but I visit my local Goodwill every week and usually can find one book to bring home for a dollar. And there are hundreds of free ebooks available from Amazon Kindle and Nook in both fiction and nonfiction.
So, choose something you enjoy to read and let others do the same. Reading for 30 minutes daily will give us all a little boost, no matter what we pick to read. Don’t judge fellow bookworms. Just read.