I have always liked to read. If you spoke to any of my elementary or middle school teachers, they’d be quick to tell all about my sordid history of reading in class, blatantly ignoring everything they taught, and thrusting me into a new book the two of them. days.
I devoured fantasy, science fiction, and just about anything else in the fiction section. So when I see people talking about reading fiction as a childish activity, or something less important than the utilitarian pastime of reading biographies, for example, it really pisses me off.
From a neurological perspective, reading fiction has been studied for years as an indicator of improvement information processing skills. It is known to stimulate imaginative and creative skills, which, while clearly beneficial for mental health and enjoyment, are considered less valuable than more pragmatic reading. Fiction expanded my vocabulary and helped me hone my writing skills from an early age, as it does for many children, but somehow there is the impression that these skills do not require maintenance until adulthood. Fictional reading is not a priority in most academic or professional settings.
For some reason it is thought that smart people read biographies and non-fiction. The image of the Renaissance man boarding a plane with a new biography of a billionaire is a more than familiar story in modern media. Biographies have their benefits — it’s worth reading about the mindset and drive of the ultra-successful, which is grounded in America’s obsession with career success. America’s work-life balance has been the subject of criticism for years, with its clearly unhealthy nature work culture –– “work eclipses everything” mindset –– compared to Europe.
From 2020, America has the sixth highest average annual hours worked for any country in the world and one of the lowest guaranteed holiday periods. For this reason, the domestic culture seems to have blurred self-realization with an increase professional success and occupation –– an absurd amalgam that only leads to greater alienation from hobbies (like reading fiction). These hobbies may not overtly translate into professional skills, but rather act as a step towards self-realization.
Even here at LMU, the library’s fiction collection is extensive, but mostly relegated to the basement, which means you can get fiction books and e-books, but you have to request a specific title. There’s no labeled separation of sections for different genres or subjects – all shelves are labeled “Main Stacks” and sorted by author last names, appearing (to the untrained eye) to haphazardly shuffle books from research and fiction. I tried to find all the books I was interested in, but this system doesn’t have the ability to browse shelves of stories, intending to discover a new book to read––instead, you have to enter with the intention of finding a specific book. It takes away that magic of discovery that I love about reading and makes no sense to a novice.
Research libraries are already on the slippery slope to full digitization, and massive databases like JSTOR are beginning to show clearly that physical research libraries have have lost their usefulness. Our library is not physically organized according to the Dewey decimal system, so it would not be fundamentally different to have the fiction collection sorted and sorted for the natural discovery of new books.
Research and non-fiction will be researched regardless, so they can be put away and retrieved when needed. I really feel like having a dedicated fiction section is a lot less intimidating and a lot more logical. In my opinion, an average person should be able to walk into a library and skim through a fictional book without getting discouraged.
I know it’s hardly reasonable to expect the library to restructure its book storage just to increase interest in fiction novels, but I think it’s an indication of how the society values types of knowledge. Since fiction writing is not directly applicable to academia, it is easy to think that there is little point in doing anything more than accumulating factual knowledge from research and non-fiction. .
As the information age continues to limit the knowledge we actually need to memorize, perhaps it’s time to turn to fiction – after all, creative thinking and emotional intelligence are the only things computers have not yet succeeded in replacing us.
This is the opinion of Arsh Goal, a first-year economics student from Dublin, California. Email your comments to [email protected]. Follow and tweet comments for @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like Loyolan on Facebook.