Is Nonfiction more important than Fiction?

During my first degree in college, I found a lot of my teachers had an eerily similar view of literature, that for some reason nonfiction was so much important to read that fiction. In fact, most of my teachers refused to accept any fictional writing, saying nonfiction was more high brow. At the time, it really bothered me. While I do read and enjoy many nonfiction books, there is something so much more moving in fiction.

So today I am going to break down why I believe that fiction is just as important as nonfiction.

Only the jester can tell the truth

Most people know the phrase that the jester is the only person who can speak truth to the king. This phrase (though it may not have been true historically) basically means that a jester could criticize the king (speak truth to power, so to speak) through his jokes while not actually overtly criticizing the king and angering with him.

I personally see fiction like this. Under the guise of untruth, fiction is able to share darker truths than most nonfiction can easily convey. Fiction is able to dig deeper into human nature than nonfiction often can.

Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate my point. 1984 by George Orwell is fiction and depicts a fictional totalitarian world. He based it on the Soviet Union, headed by Joseph Stalin. However, I hear many people (on all sides of the political sphere) bringing up 1984 in reference to what is happening in current events. If Orwell had written a nonfiction book on the Soviet Union, condemning its government, the book would always be tied to the real government, not as applicable to others. But because it is a fictional world which does not exist, parts of it can be related back to our own world.

This is not to say nonfiction history books cannot be tied to current events, but it is easier to read a book criticizing a fictional type of government as opposed to your own government.

Seeing our own faults in fantasy

The same thing might applied to characters in fictional books dealing with human nature.

When you read a nonfiction book, often you equate experiences to individuals. For example, I can read a book like A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah about his experiences as a child soldier in Africa and appreciate his story, but I can’t really relate to him. His experiences are real, so I would never equate my father dying of a heart attack when I was fifteen to Beah horrifically losing his parents in war when he was twelve, even if both things really happened.

However, in fiction I don’t need to worry about equating my experiences to a real person, because characters in stories are fictional. I can read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevksy and see myself having similar pride to Raskolnikov, the main character, while not worrying about equating myself to a real murderer since he’s fictional. In a sense, fictional characters can be more real than nonfiction ones.

But what is your opinion about this topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you believe nonfiction is more important than fiction? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Anne

16 thoughts on “Is Nonfiction more important than Fiction?

  1. Interesting topic, never really thought about this issue but… I think non fiction is not usually ambiguous, whereas fiction can be, and maybe that’s why tutors prefer non fiction.

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  2. I have to say I find your teachers’ attitudes toward fiction a bit unusual. Perhaps they were trying to encourage the students to read more nonfiction? Maybe I am being too kind to them. LOL! I think a lot of people get worried about nonfiction. Reading nonfiction is often harder than reading novels. I have just started a big nonfiction book that I know will take me three weeks to finish. Reading nonfiction often takes discipline and work, whereas a good novel you just disappear into. I like to say both are essential. Reading nonfiction teaches us about the world; reading novels teaches us about what it means to be human. I wouldn’t like to choose, but if I had to then I would choose novels. I think Ray Bradbury always said he got his education from novels – all the education, that he needed! LOL! But don’t forget that to write novels, one often has to read a lot of nonfiction. Interesting that you don’t mention narrative nonfiction which, being akin to the novel, is often very easy to read. [I do sometimes wonder if some novels might have been better as nonfiction and some nonfiction better as novels. But that’s just me!] Interesting post.

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    1. Thank you! Maybe my teachers were unusual. I’m not sure. And I agree that nonfiction can be harder to read than fiction. I suppose it depends on the book. Like War and Peace is technically fiction, but it’s such a difficult book to read! But in general, nonfiction books tend to be more dense. Like you said, there is benefit to reading both. I personally can’t understand people who read one but refuse to read the other (like only read fiction or only read unfiction). I have learned so much from both genres!

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  3. I read both fiction and nonfiction.
    I think this is an excellent conversation post.
    My dad had a similar attitude about fiction. He thought a person is learning more by reading nonfiction. It at least feels like it.
    I believe it is possible people feel that reading fiction looks like wasting time or trifling with time. Society seems to be such a work oriented one that reading fiction doesn’t look like something that will earn or gain a pay-off.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read both, love both, and would never have felt the need to determine whether one was superior to the other. The very notion strikes me as absurd. Humans have been benefiting from both since they developed language around the campfires.

    “The Buffalo begin gathering around the big lake by the second spring moon. Make sure you have a new spear by then.” – Fact

    “Come on pa, tell us the story of the magical white buffalo again!” – Fiction

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