Why Novels and Stories Are Necessary For Human Survival.

image by Aaron Burden from Unsplash.com

I read a particularly wonderful quote the other day.

“Very few experiences outside of reading fiction allow you to linger in this liminal state, between the world as you’re forced to know it and a place in the imagination that allows your sense of self to expand or metamorphose or disappear.” — Paul Reyes, The Virginia Quarterly Review.

Fiction is just as worthwhile, mind-expanding, and educational as non-fiction.

Stories allow us to delve into the life and perspective of another, potentially a whole world separate from our own, if only for a moment. They offer us the point of view of another which we likely never would have experienced or considered otherwise. Novels lend us entertainment and escape. In reading, we can live, second hand, so many other lives, apart from merely our own.

Novels teach us empathy.

They offer, with extended hand, alternate ideas for different ways of living, thinking, loving.

They expand our vocabulary.

Fiction is the portal through which we might step into other adventures, experience different cultures, countries, towns, and people.

Stories allow us to be a fly on the wall, in moments, periods of time, and social situations that we wouldn’t otherwise be able.

According to the Harvard Business Review, recent research in neuroscience suggests that you might look to the library for solutions; reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking. When we read, we hone and strengthen several different cognitive muscles, so to speak.

When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book. Not so. Research suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. For example, reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations.

Reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for collecting knowledge, though it does little to develop EQ (emotional intelligence), a far more elusive goal. (The Case For Reading in the Harvard Business Review).

Reading takes us away from ourselves and, at times, this is a very good thing.

Novels teach us crucial life lessons. They can guide us toward learning, what does a healthy relationship look like? What other lives could I potentially live? What alternate paths are possible? What is friendship? How does integrity look in a person’s behavior? What makes a person someone we should gravitate toward, while which aspects of someone indicate we should keep our distance? What other potential homes are there for us in the world? Are there interests, passions, even possible professions that we don’t even know about, though if we did, would likely love?

These are just a few of the questions that stories can help us with answering.

Novels may offer us a sense of, I’m not alone. They can gift us with solace, with a semblance of emotional support. They might act as a compass toward healing ourselves during difficult life moments. They can uplift and inspire us.

Stories can teach us what it might be like to live as someone of another race, sex, or status in life. Though these are things we will never understand fully, since one cannot fathom what it’s like to experience something unless they experience it first-hand, still, novels offer us a hint of what these perspectives and experiences might be like.

Books are one of the greatest inventions of humans. They are a means of people communicating messages and information to one another, across significant distances and divides. Stories are how we share insights and life lessons with others. They are how we speak to each other when we cannot do so directly.

Stories invite us to think deeply and differently about life, people, other places, cultures, and experiences.

Novels, in the most awesome cases, transform people, change minds, and alter lives. Stories can shift the world on its axis.

We need stories, books, novels. Humanity depends on them. Our sense of empathy, our mental and emotional health, and the health of our culture, all rest heavily on stories, books, and the words we put out into the world.

For some great recommendations (this list contains both fiction and non-fiction), take a gander here.

For a list of my own favorite fictional reads, here you go.

In the meantime, go forth and keep reading. Stories are crucial, life-changing aspects of our human lives and minds. We need novels and stories in order to best live.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author. www.brookeenglish.com

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