The importance of fiction

There is a current argument that believes reading fiction is a waste of valuable time, time better spent improving ourselves in the real world, that this escapism we have from reading books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings is, in itself, just inherently bad for your constantly evolving self-worth.

But I simply can’t believe that; in fact, I believe that reading fiction is perhaps one of the best methods for reflecting on how we live our lives, and how we can become better people. As a result, fiction helps us realize who we want to be, in relation to who we are in this moment.

For the longest time, I was an awful reader of fiction, I would spend far too long attempting to read stories that just didn’t interest me in the slightest, discouraging me from branching out to exploring the world of fiction. Instead, I chose to dissect every book, failing to realize the beauty that’s gifted from simply experiencing the fictional stories.

It wasn’t till about three years ago when I finally fell back in love with reading; before, I was only reading about one book a year, but I got better over time, finding books that appealed to me made reading pages upon pages became easier, like something awoke in me, but still I wasn’t able to read fiction. I most often read historical accounts or celebrities’ biographies. It wasn’t until near the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown when I rediscovered fiction.


I chose the Harry Potter series for my reintroduction into fictional stories, mostly because I enjoyed the films and found the world that JK Rowling created interesting. I was blessed by making this choice as this series became the perfect initiation to a world I left behind when I was younger.

Harry Potter‘s charm comes with the series’ gradual escape from childhood wonderment to the insecurities that often come with being thrown into adulthood. The Harry Potter series became the perfect accompaniment for those who are slowly losing their formative years to unbreaking lockdowns. The earlier books in the series would have been geared more towards a younger audience, with the themes throughout growing darker as its readers would have grown older.

I found the slow gradual decline towards an uncertain future within these books, to have many great parallels with the feelings of uncertainty a lot of us felt at the beginning of this pandemic. By reading a hero’s journey, of somebody escaping from their fears of what the future could become, I was able to overcome my own initial fears for what the pandemic imposed on all of us. The magic these books promised didn’t come from the world J.K Rowling created, but from its ability granted me short term escape from the uncertainties of your own world.

These fictional stories fulfilled my desire to escape from the tumultuous world we were living in, like most people in early pandemic I attempted to preoccupy my time with Zoom calls and Tiger King, these other mediums of entertainment weren’t able to grant me the respite I truly needed, but throwing myself headfirst into these fantastical worlds did.

Escapism isn’t the only benefit that can be found from reading fiction, these books can teach you a lot about yourself and the way that you think – putting yourself in the position of characters far different from your own, you begin to consider situations that you wouldn’t otherwise consider, see things from another’s perspective, helping instil more empathetic thoughts for your fellow man. Generally speaking, fiction provides you with a sort of work-out for your emotional and reactive muscles.

Reading, and especially reading fiction, is all about ideas and exposing yourself to new experiences. By experiencing the ideas and outlooks of the author by living what they deemed important enough to put onto the page, you will be shaped in some way to their ideas. You may have a positive or negative response to these ideas, but that doesn’t matter: what matters is experiencing another person’s viewpoints towards the world and to what lessons they deem most significant. Exposing yourself to more and more ideas is the only certain way to improve yourself.

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I was fortunate that I finally found my stepping stone into the world of fiction. I’ve come to realize what actually prevented me from enjoying this great wealth of entertainment; before I dove into the world of Harry Potter, I constantly sought the mental betterment that comes naturally from reading fiction. I treated it like a self-help book, forgetting to enjoy the craft of creating another world in your mind’s eye. I discovered that you need to immerse yourself into the book, ignoring any forming ideas that are occurring in the background of your mind. That if you read fiction thinking about its possible benefits, you’ll miss what’s actually worth in it.

I’ve finished Harry Potter, and I’ve since devoured most of the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Orson Scott Card. I have truly fallen back in love with fiction;  fortunately for me, there’s plenty of books that help with this new insatiable appetite for reading.  

Sean Barrett
Sean Barrett

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