Just A Summer Read? (Part 1: The Value of Fiction)

From early childhood, I have gleaned a wealth of knowledge from reading fiction.

I am grateful for the life lessons of Mother Goose. Don’t sit on a wall, or I might fall. If I trudge up a hill to fetch water I might tumble down, especially if I’m with a boy. No matter how tempting, I must never place my baby brother’s cradle in a tree on a windy day.

The Brothers Grimm reinforced my cautionary nature. I must not prick my finger on a spindle unless I know a prince will awaken me with a kiss. Maybe Doc could protect me from a poisoned apple, but I’m not sure about Grumpy, Sleepy or Dopey. I learned the perils of thievery from Peter Rabbit. Vegetables most certainly are a dangerous temptation.

As I expanded my reading genres, Nancy Drew taught me the dangers of sleuthing—beware of dark stairwells, attics or secret passages. I am pretty sure that Cherry Ames and Sue Barton were instrumental in preparing me for my nursing career.

My Favorite Fiction Genres

  1.  The Classics. Where would we be without Mr. Darcy? Jane Austin gave us a snapshot of Britain: women, title, inheritance or the lack there of.
  2. Historical Fiction. Brock and Bodie Thoene opened my eyes to WWII Europe with harrowing descriptions of the bombings, the raids, the resistance.
  3. Biblical Fiction. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, Joseph, Abigail, Deborah and Hagar stepped out of the pages of ancient text and were brought to life by Lois T. Henderson, Thom Lemmons and Ellen Gunderson Traylor.
  4. Mystery, Suspense. Intrigue.I love the adventures of Mrs. Pollifax, an elderly lady bored with her life and inadvertently assigned to a classified CIA mission.
  5. General Fiction. I am riveted by multigenerational plots such as those weaved by Kate Morton and Francine Rivers. The writings of Charles Martin have moved me to tears.

Why Read Fiction?

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

  1. To Reveal Hidden Prejudices. Through fictional characters, we broaden our understanding of other people, their attitudes, thoughts, motives and emotions.
  2. To Overcome Adversity. As our characters overcome obstacles or personality flaws, we also learn problem-solving strategies.
  3. To Develop Empathy. Like us, our characters are flawed, broken and imperfect, searching for acceptance and love. As we walk in the shoes of our hero and heroine, we understand their motives, drives and fears. We are filled with compassion for our wounded characters and offer forgiveness.
  4. To Learn Life Lessons. We may forget a teaching, but we remember the story that reflects the message. Stories engage our imagination, emotions and our senses. Jesus understood the power of the story. Who of us have forgotten the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son? Jesus taught valuable life lessons through his stories such as the parable of the persistent widow.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.

(Luke 18:1 NLT)

Stories transform our hearts and minds, rubbing off our rough edges. Stories help make us real.

Margery Williams Biancoso beautifully describes this process in The Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

What works of fiction have impacted your life?

Next Month: Just A Summer Read? (Part 2: The Value of Non-fiction)

2 thoughts on “Just A Summer Read? (Part 1: The Value of Fiction)”

  1. Anita Klumpers

    I love this article so much! Your favorites are intriguing. Some I am familiar with, some not. Thanks for expanding my reading world!

  2. This is such an entertaining, enlightening post, Joanie. Thank you! My first big laugh of the day:
    “If I trudge up a hill to fetch water I might tumble down, especially if I’m with a boy.” Ha!!!!!!

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