Way back in the day someone shared their secret recipe to increased learning through reading. Not only did they read voraciously, they had a very specific pattern they followed to maximize the impact that reading had on their life. They would rotate from a biography or autobiography to a nonfiction to a fiction (preferably sci-fi). This rotation of books provided an interesting way to embed the concepts they learned.
Through the biography or autobiography they’d learn how someone lived. What did they do differently in the context of their life and in their time? How did the way they live impact their life?
The nonfiction was pretty straightforward. It’d help them better understand the theory behind a concept or two. The book would help them learn a skill useful to their life.
The fiction – especially sci-fi? That one always threw me for a loop. How in the world would that help? When I looked at where my reading list had been focused before this advice I found it was very focused only on nonfiction and biography. There was a direct correlation to improvement. Fiction felt like more of a diversion, TV without the screen.
Thankfully, I followed the advice and started to work back in some fiction. With a fresh perspective I’m seeing a more clear connection!
First off, fiction allows us to dream fearlessly. The only reality in it is the one in which we construct. The author has the ability to go in literally any direction they choose and are able to adjust things on the fly. How does this specific factor help in learning? It reminds me to dream big and then dream bigger. The possibility thinking in fiction easily transcends the story and can roll into real life if I remember to focus on it.
Next, the best fiction writers create very realistic characters. The best stories are the ones in which you can really believe the character and their actions as they feel so real they must be grounded in personal experiences and on real people. When we find someone reacting the way we would imagine them to react in the situation they story is so much more believable. Through this vision we are able to see how people could or should react in certain circumstances. Our brains are put into positions we haven’t been in during normal life and we start subconsciously thinking through how we would react in the same scenario. Throw in the concepts and ideas we’ve picked up on from the nonfictions and biographies and we can see how our ideal self would react if we followed the advice from the other books.
Over the past few months there’ve been a small handful of fictions that have hit me right between the eyes. Devolution and World War Z by Max Brooks and Spin and Axis by Robert Charles Wilson. When I consider what we’ve learned about human behavior through COVID, growth mindsets, grit, and diversity through real life and books there is a direct correlation between them and the characters in each of those four books. They may be fiction but I’ve found so much I can learn and implement in my personal life from them. Yes, they are totally fiction, but they’ve brought some very interesting ideas to surface!