Friday, May 6, 2011

Why do we read, anyway?

So, why? Why do we read fiction, specifically?

It's easy to talk about all the reasons that we read informational texts - we need to know how to do something or where to get something or how we got to where we are now.

But fiction fills a different role in our lives. Sometimes we read fiction to affirm our own worldview, selecting authors and titles that we know that we'll be comfortable with. Series and novels with predictable plots can be soothing, a stable place to escape for a while from an unpredictable real world.

Other times, we're reading fiction that races in completely the opposite direction, taking us into the life of someone so unlike us that we simply must leave behind a preconception or two so that we can dive into their story as it carries us along. Or we're suddenly in a place whose rules don't correspond to what we understand as normal, regular, and routine.

You'll probably find more of the latter than the former recommended on this blog. After all, don't the bestsellers usually appeal to the masses? Oh, sometimes a novel from one of the BigName publishers will wander onto this list, but not because it satisfies the majority viewpoint, I promise!

And back to why we read fiction - research reported in Psychological Science notes that "When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative—be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging." (Becoming a Vampire). (Hat tip to Barking Up the Wrong Tree)

So whether you read for information or escape or belonging, let's get beyond the bestsellers to the really good stuff, shall we?


  1. I am on a mission to read and recommend independent and less-recognized books. The bestsellers have all the marketing they need right now. I read to escape. I want to be transported, to lose myself. Now to find all those treasures that need a voice---someone willing to give them a chance and shout their titles from the highest moutain-top. Or on my blog, whatever. ;-)

  2. Exactly, Bach!! That's why I started BooksYALove - to showcase great books beyond the bestsellers. I have recommendations for books by some non-US authors coming up in the next few weeks...

  3. Well said, Katy! I'm always interested in the books that may never be turned into movies but really should be. :) I have a couple from your list on the to-be-read shelf right now. Thank you!


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