Reading doesn’t have to be ‘imminently practical’

COVID-19 manages to sabotage everybody’s daily routines, whether they are working or not. Most people find that they have a lot more idle time in their hands. Lists of things to do during the pandemic spring up on the Internet, including one from yours truly. A common idea is to read more books.

Prior to starting my career, fictions used to be the staple of my home library. Soon after I joined the workforce, non-fictions completely took over. Reading of novels was deemed expendable in my quest of knowledge. Contrary to popular reading preferences, I abandoned novels in favor of exclusively reading non-fictions.

What books one should read, analogous to what food one should eat, is a highly personal choice. Having said that, even if we like our current choices does not mean that we cannot do better by seeking more variety, balance, value, and enjoyment.

Authors Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts in their book “Changing Minds: How Aging Affects Language and How Language Affects Aging”, which I previously reviewed, advocate the reading of fictions which “might make us better human beings.” According to them, “by reading about fictional characters, we develop a better understanding of the perspectives of other people, which in turn makes readers of fiction more socially perceptive. Reading fiction increases the empathy that we feel toward other people, and may also enhance a person’s ability to understand the intentions, beliefs, and desires of other people.”

Reading fiction might make us better human beings.

Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts in ‘Changing Minds’

Recognizing the benefit of reading fictions, I altered my own reading habit to include both fictions and non-fictions.

My new era of balanced reading was kicked off by the classic ‘Hard Times’ by the venerable Charles Dickens. Self-described as ever an ‘imminently practical’ man, Mr. Gradgrind, one of the main characters, raised his children in a strict, rational, fact-based manner, devoid of all fun and imagination. The result of such upbringing was utterly most heart-wrenching for both parent and children.

How reassuring the message was for the recent returnee to fiction reading.

To me, what is at stake is not a dearth of knowledge, but rather a growing lack of empathy towards others. No one who has lived for a sizable portion of a century can be gravely lacking in experience and wisdom. Rather, empathy is something I need to work on in order not to become a grumpy old person, one who has far more wisdom to share than an audience willing to receive(A 17th Century Nun’s Prayer).

Happy reading.