Some time ago I decided to start reading fiction again. Even though I occasionaly read a work of fiction, doing it on a regular basis must have been more than ten years ago. What sparked my return to it, was a simple 'being sick of non-fiction reading'. Reading in general relaxes me, but I have pushed myself for a long time to have a 'return on investment'. I needed to learn something, be better at my job, expand my knowledge, et cetera.

Turns out, fiction reading has a different return on investment, which in many ways actually helps me out more. The unforced nature of it all has been like a breath of fresh air for my mind. Some observations:

  • It truly relaxes me. I don’t need to think or remember a lot. I don’t need to apply anything to my own situation. I can just enjoy the read.
  • It’s not forced. Yes, non-fiction shouldn’t be forced either, but it did. I forced myself.
  • Time passes more slowly. Especially when compared to other activities in the same veign, like watching a movie or playing a videogame. These activities seem to speed up my perception of time. Reading a book for two hours feels like an entire evening.
  • It stimulates my brain in a different way. My creative, problem solving side seems to benifit from reading stories. My mind feels more relaxed and open to all posibilities. The analytical part of my brain get’s more than enough exercise in a day’s work. Reading fiction gets the other parts going. Guess that’s also why it’s more relaxing, the strained part of my brain can sit back, while the underused part can take charge.

I'm quite sure there's a lot more to say about this and probably research backing it up. In any case, I'm a changed man for reading what I like, instead of what I think I should know about. And of course, reading to explicitly learn is good for you. As with most things, balance is key.