I just finished reading Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop (review will be up soonish) and I came away feeling good, really good, and thoughtful. In the scheme of things, Rosie is not great literature, but it filled an entertainment need as well as an emotional need.
When I first started blogging about books, I approached it rather arrogantly. I studied literature and had taken writing classes. I must know about stories and books and what makes them good, right? Well, maybe.
What I didn’t take into consideration is the different reasons why readers read fiction at all.
If you Google “Why Do We Read Fiction?”, you’ll encounter a lot of articles telling you truthfully why we read fiction.
- We read to learn. Most fiction is based in/on reality. It can deal with the ordinariness of life or the extraordinariness of life.
- We read to empathize. Even the most imaginative fantasy is relatable as long as it deals with real human emotions, ones that we recognize, feel, experience.
Entertain and Escape
- We read to be entertained or to escape. Have you ever picked up a book when you’re feeling sad, negative, lonely, and then realized an hour later that you forgot how badly you were feeling because now you are feeling so good? Can there be a stronger justification for a reader or an author?
Regardless of why we read, we all approach it differently. My requirements for entertainment will be different from others’ requirements, and this was a fact that I didn’t respect at first. I like to laugh and feel good. I like to have my romance build up rather than have immediate sizzle or I want that initial sizzle to be so combustible but they don’t act on it and draw it out. I like fiction that makes me think about how we interact with people or offer me truths that the writer has learned by living. And, I’m certain if I sat here and considered longer, I would have pages of likes and then an equal number of dislikes.
So this is one reason why I offer YMMV reviews. For that list of dislikes I didn’t write here, there are readers who want and desire those dislikes in a novel. I am in no position to judge their wants and desires in a novel. And, as a writer, I know how much time and effort it goes into producing something original and hope it finds an audience even if that audience only consists of a couple of people.
I could write on this topic for so much longer. Reading and writing will always be fascinating to me.
And, this is just one reason why I am a book blogger.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Why do you read? How do you like to feel when you reach the last page of a novel?
18 thoughts on “Why Do We Read Fiction?”
Definitely a combo of the three. I’ve learned a lot of history, culture, and vocabulary from fiction, beginning at an early age. It’s always been an escape for me as well. And yes, it’s also a way to emotionally empathize with characters and situations out of one’s daily life.
Your last point was emphasized in an article in Psychology Today that explained why it’s actually GOOD for us to read fiction. That we can become better people. 🙂
I definitely agree, there are lots of reasons for reading. Serious literature has its place to make us think, question societal mores, or present a new view on a subject. I definitely read to learn as well. But I think entertainment is just as important!
Yes! And it’s a great book that can do both of those things. 🙂
When genre’s are identified by an emotion, that’s the sign for the reader to find what they want: romance for the person who wants to feel a bit romantic, let their heart sing with hope; horror for someone who wants to feel fear from a safe distance; thriller for someone who wants to pump up their heart rate …
we read to feel something, in my view. If we also learn a bit, or the book closes with a deeply-felt understanding we didn’t have before, all the better.
just my view.
I like it. I used to read horror all the time in my teens, but haven’t read much lately. I liked being scared, maybe that’s something that goes away with age?
Or we gain confidence that we’re going to get through the scary time …
Now that’s a thought.
Reading (the good stuff) can give us the same physiological responses, so it makes sense to me. A subtle, self-managed lesson in whatever we think we need/want/desire (oh, I could do with a romance!).
That is interesting. The thing is that the book has to live up to or fulfill whatever it is. Maybe this is why so many people reread books (I’ve always wondered why when there are so many MORE books to read.).
Although it’s a lot harder to relive the experience, we still have the memory of the first time
That reminds me of something I read: we only remember the memory not the experience…
And sometimes, the people (characters) within the story, almost as if we knew them
i read to learn English, and am still learning it! I make many mistakes, grammar , vocabulary you name it. not sure if reading has helped me improve but i have learnt a lot of other things. cultures, history and also mythology. if one wants to be a writer, i feel they must read. reading is so versatile, you can read alone or in a group, it can be for pleasure or serious work. i read for both. books come to me, i seldom go to them! i may buy and put them on my shelf but they decide when i read them! or unless its on a reading list at book club, but still i am moved at the right time. i enjoyed this post and your reflections Sascha. you take the time to highlight books i will never read but it gives me an opportunity to know what is out there. i have huge respect for all books and all writers.
I do think as writers we respect the amount of effort it takes to write a book and then make allowances that others don’t make–for good or bad. Ha. I’ve read some books I wish I hadn’t read either. I still have a lot of books I know I should read. sigh. Maybe I should make it a point to read one of those every month.
Your english is marvelous as is your writing.
thank you Sascha! really appreciate how you take the time and effort to write reviews. and thank you for the kind words too! i have to finish a book no matter how much i dislike it.
I learn a lot from fiction and the same time I am entertained and for that moment, I’m in a different place. It’s really cool.
Yes. I love that it can totally take out of where we’ve been especially if it’s in a funk!