This post was inspired by a couple of people who have had a large influence in my life in the last couple years. First, on the positive side of this post is Madeleine L’Engle – specifically her book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art”, which, ironically, is one of her few works of non-fiction.
On the negative side, is Dave Ramsey, who I consider a positive influence in my life as well, but who I think is dead wrong in his views on fiction and non-fiction, at least to the degree I’ve heard him talk about it.
I’m not saying non-fiction has no place. In fact, it has a very important place. But it’s all I hear emphasized in many circles. I’ve also heard Dave Ramsey call fiction “junk food for the brain” more times than I can count. I agree a lot of fiction is a waste of time, but no more proportionally than non-fiction. If good non-ficion is a good, wholesome, lean steak, bad non-fiction is like that jelly inside a can of Spam. It’s technically protein, but it’s completely worthless filler. In the same way, the right kind of fiction is nutritious and sweet and immensely pleasurable, like a fresh piece of pineapple.
Good fiction gets in through your emotions in a way non-fiction can’t. I can tell you that reading “The Hobbit” makes me want to be a better man every time I read the story. It gives me hope that pudgy, suburban kid with no sense of his own courage and abilities can find himself out in the wild, and can figure out he’s part of a bigger story. Kind of like I believe God intends us to be.
Reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” helps me remember that adventure and magic can be found everywhere.
I’ll even extend the analogy to everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Television. Watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (yes, I’m serious) or its spin-off “Angel” helps me remember how much we really really need other people.
All that to say, focusing too much on non-fiction will make for a very empty and unbalanced life. You need a good imagination just as much as you need a good intellect. You need your right brain as much as your left.