A Summer of Fiction

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Back in June, my friend (and coworker) Amber confronted me on my reading habits. Apparently, I read far too much non-fiction and therefore needed to shake things up a bit. So she challenged me to read some fiction during the summer.

A challenge I accepted. Over the summer I worked my way through a fairly significant number of fiction reads including:

…and even a couple of graphic novels to boot.

So what were my big takeaways? Here are a few:

Great writers create “real” worlds

In terms of sheer volume, the bulk of my fiction reading was CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, but this is true even of Suzanne Collins’ work in The Hunger Games. Lewis and Tolkien in particular developed these wonderfully detailed worlds, filled with a rich history even if their approaches were very different. Where Tolkien wrote volumes detailing the history of Middle Earth, Lewis seemed content to leave the blanks unfilled. This is a wonderful gift that God has given great fiction writers, and something that can help those of us who spend most of our time writing non-fiction need to appreciate.

Fiction is a lot of fun

Even the kind of dumb stuff, like Batman: Earth One or All-Star Superman. Because good fiction gets your imagination working, you get to have a lot of fun reading it. This is another lesson that those of us who spend our time in non-fiction can learn. It’s okay to be creative. It’s okay to have fun when you’re writing—especially if you’re writing about the Scriptures. The most devastating thing we can do to our readers it to make the Bible seem boring.

Fiction confronts our need for the transcendent

Whether explicitly or implicitly, our need for something beyond this world is revealed well in fiction. The Hunger Games shows the bleakness of a worldview absent of transcendence, where The Magician’s Nephew gives what might be the most beautifully imaginative pictures of how creation might have happened that one could ever read. But both show the incompleteness of the world without something beyond it. Narnia doesn’t exist in a void—it is called (or sang) into being; and it’s a world that’s really only working right when its Maker is present. Our world is spoken into being and depends on the One who spoke to sustain it. If nothing else, fiction can help us remember that there’s something beyond all that we can see at work and it’s a glorious thing, indeed.

  • Amber

    Bravo! I hope occasionally in the future you’ll still slip a fiction book into your reading.

    I agree heartily with this line: “The most devastating thing we can do to our readers it to make the Bible seem boring.”

    I also agree heartily with your third point: In short, imagination creates theists. If you grow up (and continue as an adult) to read fiction that awakens your imagination to what could be – the wonder and possibilities of the world – then I agree with Chesterton, you can’t accept a small (materialistic) world view.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Yes, I will continue to occasionally slip some fiction into the reading list :) I’ve got 2 and a half more books in the Narnia series to go through with Abigail, plus the first book of the Space Trilogy for me.

      • Amber

        Yay! Have you ever read the space trilogy before? That Hideous Strength is pretty amazing. Not necessarily on a great fiction level (though it’s good), but on a great cultural insight level.

        I hope you enjoy the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My favorite of the series, just for the fun of it.

  • http://ManDurance.com/ James Dibben

    I have been challenged to read more fiction this fall. I’m so glad I have been. I’ve been so caught up in spiritual self-help I have forgotten to just have fun reading.

  • http://www.aaronsellars.com Aaron Sellars

    I had a prof in seminary that would only read Fiction in the summer. Haven’t tried it myself, but I might have to now that I know someone else who’s done it. I definitely see the value.