Bookish Thought: Benefits of Reading Beyond Literary Fiction part 2

Happy Hump Day! Oh and May the Fourth Be With You ;)

Last week’s Bookish Thought post was Reading Beyond Literature and the benefits of doing so, broken out into the different genres. Because that post was a lot longer than I thought it would be, I decided to do a part 2!

This part includes the genres: science fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

The only problem with this is, is that I end finding option pieces about reading these different genres that are not backed by any studies. However, usually these opinion piece provide good arguments and/or examples.

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. – wikipedia

I’ve never been a huge reader of Sci-Fi, but I have read some of the more well-known books, like Ender’s Game. I was always confused why bookstores and readers put Sci-Fi and Fantasy together in one broad genre.

I now think it’s because they both take issues and inspiration from our current world and apply it to a new one. While Fantasy tends to be a bigger stretch (and usually not our world), Sci-Fi can hit closer to home.

In the Huffington Post article, Why Everyone Should Read More Science Fiction, the authors give a great point as to why reading science fiction is great or possibly beneficial to us as readers:

By proposing possible visions of the future, science fiction asks questions of us—of humanity, of Earth, of individuals—that we wouldn’t ordinarily ask ourselves. Who are we? Where are we going? Does what we do today matter? Real science fiction is as close to an intense discussion of philosophy as you can get while still reading fast-paced, page-turning fiction. And it doesn’t always give us the answers. Sometimes it leaves us to answer those questions ourselves, and that discussion is one readers of all stripes relish.

Of course, not every reader of any genre read to get something out it besides entertainment. Sometimes, entertainment is simply what we want or need. But I like to pick a challenging novel or what I like to say ‘thought-provoking’ from time to time. Based on the quote above, I won’t feel guilty about picking up a Sci-Fi book over a literal fiction book next time ;).

The authors of this article, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, particularly focus on why it should be young adult readers reading Science Fiction.

If anything is, and always will remain, relevant and important for young people to read about, to talk about, to dream about, it’s the future. All our futures. Bleak futures and hopeful futures. The plausible, the impossible, and everything in between.

While I think their points, of course, can be applied to any aged reader, their point about young adults in particular is that as adults, it’s hard to change. But teenagers are constantly changing who they are and who they want to be. Science Fiction helps foster that conversation for them, internally and externally.

I found another opinion piece, 5 Reasons Why You Should Science Fiction, from someone on Thought Catalog (I know, it’s not exactly the Times or anything), but it did give some great reasons as to why someone who devour Science Fiction. I’m going to simply list what they put.

  1. Aliens or the potential for something other. A great question of humanity is whether or not we are alone in the universe.
  2. Preparation for that potential of something other. Science Fiction gives us a myriad of what-if scenarios and allows for readers to see possible decisions and routes to take. It allows the reader to think what they would do. I mean, who hasn’t created a plan for a potential zombie apocalypse? (I have – long story. The plan has since changed)
  3. Avatars. I’m not sure I fully understand the use of this term myself, but we’re introduced to characters that could exist next to us in reality. It makes it easier for us to think about different scenarios if they were to ever happen.
  4. The Future. We won’t will forever and so in reading Sci-Fi  “there is a potential to look ahead and see what our planet and civilizations could be like in the future.” many of these types of books can be viewed as warnings or in anticipation.
  5. Exploring and thinking about change. I have no doubt that the future will bring changes and science fiction allows for the consideration of the possible changes.

If not for this post and research, I never would have thought about these reasons for reading science fiction. I’m happy that I’m currently experiencing part of this by reading Armada by Ernest Cline at the moment.

Another article I liked from The Atlantic, The Underrated, Universal Appeal of Science Fiction. It gives similar arguments that others have given for the Fantasy genre in comparison to literary fiction.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is another genre that I don’t read often. But the one article I found that focus on the benefits of reading historical fiction was interesting. It’s The Guardian article, Fiction is just as important as fact in learning about history, written by Beth Webb.

Someone that Webb consulted with for one of her books said that historical fiction stories are great; he himself wasn’t interested in the Vikings until he read Bernard Cornwell. And now he’s hooked.

… historical fiction helps a young person to appreciate the bigger questions that arise from the record of our past. The beauty of the novel is that it has imagination rather than fact at its base. Children can read several conflicting stories about the same era and appreciate how very little is actually known, and how tenuous the concept of truth really is. But at the same time, they will have had the chance to develop a passion for the “high stories” of history.

While reading historical fiction may not benefit more than our imagination or knowledge base, it’s still a great way to become interested in certain parts of our history. It may even prompt the reader to go in search of non-fiction historical work. History, after all, is a huge part of who we are today as a society.


Non-fiction was a little harder to find things for. I think not everyone is a non-fiction reader; I get the sense that you either you really like or you don’t. Depending on the type of non-fiction that you’re reading, I have no doubt that you’ll learn something.

I only found one article that really touches on what reading non-fiction does for the reader: The Prospect’s article Why You Should Read Non-Fiction Books.

The article does point out that of course reading fiction is great, but there are some things that non-fiction fosters better like giving

… practical, daily life-applicable knowledge that I can use to interact with others; fiction works less so since not everyone reads the same books, nor interprets them in the same way as others might.

Compared to fiction, non-fiction is less about interpretation. You read the information given and don’t have to worry over whether you’re missing the importance of something because non-fiction will most likely tell you; there’s no emotional involvement.

This article I found on the blog Goins, Writer goes the other direction and tells you why you should fiction over non-fiction with a focus on creativity, which I found to be an interesting read.


Ah, poetry. I love writing poetry, but I can’t say I’ve done a lot of reading of it. It’s actually on my list to read more poetry in the next year or so. Based on the few articles I found, I have the right idea.

Reading poetry can be hard, engaging your mind and making you think, stretching your mind. There will be plenty you don’t understand or don’t like, but as stated in an article on the site Refine the Mind,

This is not about liking or disliking something, though.  This is about experiencing new modes of expression, new viewpoints, new ideas.  Maybe it’s an old idea presented in a way that resonates with you.  Maybe you’ll read something that resonates with you so negatively it upsets you and propels your mind to new places, new criticisms.  No matter what you take away from a poem, it is mental work.  This is healthy and good.  Even in intellectual pursuits, if we are only seeking out what we like, we are not truly growing our minds in a well-rounded fashion.

He makes a good point. Poetry, I believe, is something that every reader takes something different away. The interpretations will be different. That may be because poetry isn’t just about engaging the mind while reading. Poetry is emotional; it’s about engaging the most underused organ: the heart. From  The Intercollegiate Review article, Why You Need Poetry:

Reading poetry is not simply about understanding the rhyme scheme of an Alexandrian sonnet or being able to write a paper on the theological conceits of the metaphysical poets. A poem is first and foremost an expression of emotion. You have to engage your feelings when you read a poem. … While poetry engages your emotions it does so in a rational and structured way. Poetry is smart. It does a formal dance around the emotions and engages them while also engaging your brain. Emotion on its own is mere sentimentality. Emotion in classical poetry fuses the intellect with emotion in a high and noble human experience.

Like how I imagine poetry to be, that quote is beautiful and makes me want to go pick up a book of poetry and devour it. But poetry isn’t just about engaging the mind and heart either. One of the benefits of reading poetry is that not only does it help widen our vocabulary, but it also widens the way we think, taking our thought processes outside the box.

You are forced to work out the meaning of complicated passages and puzzle over obscure references … Figuring out such things is hard but rewarding work, and as you struggle, you discover that your mind is firing on cylinders you did not know existed. Your language skills are being stretched, your ability to understand and articulate is taking a huge jump, and that’s an exciting thing.

In addition to stretching our thought processes, reading poetry also stretches our imagination, making us step out of narrow worlds and encouraging the development and understanding of new and different perspectives.

The poet makes connections that nobody else makes and to understand them, you must get your mind out of a rut and double check your understanding of reality … As your imagination is stretched your perception of reality widens out. Things are not what they seemed. They are more than what you thought they were, and this shake up of your preconceptions is what education is all about.

You know, I don’t know how I never saw these benefits from reading poetry because I totally understand them being an amateur poet myself. But I wonder if poetry is sometimes grouped with literary fiction considering they have some overlapping benefits. Anyways, I definitely have several books of poetry sitting in my virtual TBR.

What do you think about these reasons for reading these genres? Any benefits or reasons not listed? Anything you disagree with? 

XO Nicole




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