Both fiction and self-help try to change the lives of their readers in their own way. Fiction helps you expand your worldview through the power of imagination, while self-help is more about learning new skills and strategies through a more direct approach.
While self-help books may teach you theories about how to live your life in a better way, it is fiction that will completely transform your life. Sadly, fiction doesn't get as much appreciation as it should. Many people think it's just a hobby that won't be fruitful. If you're such a person, you're completely wrong.
Let me tell you why fiction is better than self-help books.
Self-help books don’t engage with the readers as well as fiction
They give you a block of texts of information on how to improve your life but that advice may be completely irrelevant to your personal situation.
A reader reads this book to scan for information but because it doesn’t engage well with the reader, they soon forget about it and it doesn’t lead to a lasting change.
Most self-help books can be summarized within a few points on a page or two. Many books are just repeating what has been repeated multiple times already.
On the other hand, fiction puts the reader in an active position. While reading a fiction book, the reader becomes the protagonist itself, navigating through the trials and tribulations of the plot. Fiction is not about the destination but the journey.
“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
Fiction is timeless
Ideally, a self-help book should be updated timely so that its information is up to date. However, many authors don't bother doing that and their book becomes useless in just a couple of years. These books come with an expiry date and a reader has to be careful about the information they're getting from the book.
Fiction is timeless. Reading fiction also gives you a wider variety of choices. You can read a book from the late 16th century or you can pick up a book that was released just yesterday.
While self-help books are about catchy titles and bright covers, fiction is simply about the story. In fiction, you come to see the point of view of different characters. Heroes and villains, you can learn a lot from both of them.
With these wide ranges of characters, you are confronted with different opinions which challenge your own worldview. While you’re reading fiction, the characters become your friends. They teach you by example and not just blocks of text that theorize a lesson.
(Also read: Why You Should Start Writing Today)
The scientists agree with me
Even scientists agree that reading fiction has tremendous benefits for our brain development. Instead of remembering facts after facts, it’s easier to remember a narrative that teaches us something. Even Elon Musk has admitted that he was raised by books.
“I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents.” -- Elon Musk
Self-help books can be repetitive
A lot of self-help books have similar writing styles and even similar information. They don’t have enough complexity that makes the readers think, they simply absorb the content in front of them. They are only confronted with one point of view unless they decide to read different authors talking about the same topic.
Self-help books can be simplifications of aspects of life that are trying to paint themselves as universal truth.
“… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
The self-help industry is largely dominated by white men who tell you you are a failure in life because you don’t wake up at 5 a.m. like them. Somehow, they also forget to mention that their parents were already millionaires before they could use that wealth to become billionaires.
I am not saying that all fiction is good and all self-help is bad.
I know that there are some excellent self-help books out there and lots and lots of bad fiction. Browse through lists to find the books you will truly love. But still, fiction is way more humanizing than self-help books and I have benefited from reading fiction rather than self-help.
Because you’re here, I want to give you some recommendations for books that have changed my life in a better way.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
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