Reading has the power to transform your life. It gives you the ability to live through another person’s lens for a few hours, or days, or weeks. It gives you perspective. It teaches you lessons, and gives you the opportunity to self-reflect. How would you behave in a similar circumstance? What consequences does your behaviour have? All of these questions and more, are questions I’ve been able to embrace in the past week – largely because I’ve been reading fiction.
Now, I was one of those kids that came to Law school and was taken aback by how much I didn’t know about the real world. My corrective mechanism to this was to read non-fiction: as much as I could. I tried doing that through 2017, and then through 2018 – where I started off with wanting to read one fiction and one non-fiction book a day. Non-fiction consumed my life in a way not much has. I’d be reading newspapers and longform posts whenever I was free, and turn over to a hardcopy of a non-fiction book when I was back in my room. I’d discuss largely non-fiction things with my friends – happenings from the real world, which I could analyze tangibly. I’m grateful for that, because I felt like I wasn’t as uninformed as I was earlier. I also dislike not knowing things, so reading non-fiction taught me a lot, which I enjoyed. But reading non-fiction can be drudgingly slow to get through, and tougher to remember. Bad non-fiction can be horrifying, because of this factual narration. The worst part is that it’s all real, there’s literally no escape from the truth. Even where you DNF a book, you’ll end up feeling like there’s something real you’ve left behind.
Which is what makes me so happy about reading fiction – a joy I’ve rediscovered. Good fiction is fast-paced, page-turning, and immersive. Bad fiction is slow, dull, with a lack of plot and narrative arcs to keep you engaged. In either case, fiction is a product of the human mind, and human creativity. It has the ability to get you really thinking about things you see in the world. Fiction is often a “reflection” of the world – it’s not necessarily the real world itself, which is something fabulous. You can adopt course corrective measures because you don’t enjoy how the world is when you read a piece of fiction. You can change your own behaviour. You can form opinions that have an impact.
Or, you can just enjoy a book without any real-world consequences, and get lost in a world that isn’t your own. That’s a liberating feeling I can’t get anywhere else, except between pages.
I’ve been fortunate to experience that in the last week more than ever. Class has become horrifyingly slow for me to sit through, so every night, I try to pick out a fast-paced book for me to read in case I need the time to go by. And boy, oh boy, does it.
The morality of my actions confuse me – should I be paying attention? But the morality of my decision to read means I can attend classes without feeling guilt – for I have been productive, and I have enjoyed my classes thoroughly. Sometimes the ends, they justify the means. I guess.