Why reading fiction is good for you

I love reading. Not a day goes by when I don’t pick up a book at some point an read a few pages…or a whole book. Obviously, I read a lot about youth ministry, leadership and related topics. But I also read a lot of fiction. Reading fiction is one of those things that really fills up my tank and prevents me from running on empty.

Yet I’ve often felt guilty about reading fiction because it feels like such a waste of time. Sure, it’s relaxing and everything, but not very useful…or is it?

It turns out reading fiction actually has benefits. I quote from a recent Harvard Busines Review post:

Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.

In short: reading fiction helps you to understand real human emotions better, it improves your social skills. Ha! I always knew I was on the right track there…

Research has shown that reading fiction isn’t just relaxing, it’s actually good for you because it helps you understand human emotions better in real life. Who knew, huh?

So, for those of you who now have a legitimate excuse to read some fiction and are looking for some tips, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Ted Dekker’s Circle Series : I don’t care much for his latest stuff, but this series is really intriguing and offers a view of a different world that inspired me. The Heaven Trilogy is touching as well, and the main storyline is powerful, but at some points it’s a bit too drawn out.
  • Frank Peretti’s This present darkness and Piercing the darkness: these are classics I read when I was a teen. They completely changed my view on spiritual warfare. An absolute must-read. The Prophet is also a challenging book (there’s Peretti Three-Pack with all these three by the way). Again, not such a big fan of his more recent stuff. For instance the book he wrote with Ted Dekker, House, was a big let-down with little Christian content and a lot of creepy violence.
  • Francine Rivers: I like all her books, but my absolute favorite is The Last Sin Eater. That book just blew me away and changed how I viewed Christ’s work on the cross. And the Shofar Blew is also among my favorites, a powerful warning for (youth) pastors on the costs of sin.
  • Charles Martin’s Wrapped in Rain. A bit different from what I usually read (you may have noticed that my taste is very mainstream, nothing too edgy usually), a bit more literary I’d say, but what an amazing book. Captivating story told in beautiful language. But then again, I have a weakness for books set in the south of the US :)
  • Bodie and Brock Thoene: they have written countless series with way too many parts in historical fiction, mostly set in the Second World War. I like these, but would have appreciated the abbreviated versions. Their three-part series set in the Roaring Twenties and the Depression is excellent however (it starts with In My Father’s House).
  • David Baldacci: not Christian fiction, but great thrillers with acceptable language overall. I love his Camel Club stuff.
  • Robert Goddard: also not Christian fiction, but solid British thrillers with lots of story. Take No Farewellis the best one I’ve read so far, it kept me guessing till the very last page.
  • Leon Uris’ Exodus: this book had a huge impact on me and made me interested for the first time in the events surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. I’ve read more of his books and generally liked them, but this is the best one by far.
  • Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: an absolute magnificent book. Sure, the descriptions can get a bit boring and the poems and songs are a bit much at times, but what a powerful story. If you have seen the films, read the books because there’ so much more in them than they could contain in the films.

What are some of your favorites in fiction? Which books would you recommend to others?

Comments

  1. says

    Agreed. I’ve just started reading fiction again for the first time in many years. I’m reading through the Harry Potter series and plan to read Hunger Games next.

    • Rachel says

      I know they’re controversial, but I loved the Harry Potter books. Wouldn’t recommend them for young kids, but I thought they were captivating. Haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, but they’re definitely on my list!

  2. says

    I make it a habit to read fiction every night before sleep. My favs lately:

    1. Jesus, my father, the CIA and me – Ian Cron – I brilliantly disturbing and inspiring memoir
    2. Hunger Games – nuff said
    3. The Giver – Lois Lowry
    4. Guardians of Gahoole – Lasky

    • Rachel says

      Thanks for sharing Paul! The first one is on my wish list, the second one is on my to read list and I’ve never heard of the other two so I’ll be sure to check them out. Always looking for new fresh books to read :)

  3. says

    Great post. I try to read at least one fiction book a month. Here are a few of my favourites.

    1. The Passage by Justin Cronin
    2. Hunger games
    3. Micro by Michael Crichton
    4. The girl with the dragon tattoo

    • Rachel says

      The Hunger Games keep popping up :) The Milennium Trilogy is indeed on my list as well, my sister completely loved them. Never heard of The Passage, I’ll have to check that one out. I’ve never been a big Crichton fan, though I like most of the films and series based on hus books…Thanks for sharing Kolby!

  4. says

    I read a ridiculous amount of fiction and always have done, even read fiction in German when I was working in Austria and trying to improve on my A level German!

    Favourite book is a v hard question – have been reading CS Lewis’ Narnia books again, both for myself and with my 6yo and they are fab. I love all sorts of crime novels, James Patterson, John Grisham and Harlen Coben being favourite authors in this category. Have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and they are not for the faint hearted but very good.

    One of my favourites of all time though is The Far Pavillions by MM Kaye, it’s an epic story set in Asia that encompasses the years that saw India and Pakistan separating from English rule and some very traumatic times for all involved.

    Will look out for Hunger Games stuff – haven’t heard of it before!

    • Rachel says

      That last one sounds like one I might enjoy, I’m a big fan of good historical fiction. I read in multiple languages as well, English, Dutch and German. My mom always encouraged us to read books in their original language whenever possible because you lose a lot of the beauty n the translation. It was great advice! The Narnia books are classics as well and rightly so…Fell in love with Aslan when I was still a young girl!

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