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Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time or a Journey of Growth?

Stack of books

You might be wondering if reading fiction is a waste of time. The short answer is no. Reading fiction can offer valuable insights and advice, and reading fiction can often be seen as a frivolous pastime. However, this view doesn't account for the numerous benefits and insights one can glean from these imaginative stories.

The Value of Fictional Literature

Fictional literature, from novels to manga, is far from wasting time. Works like Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist and Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari are not just entertaining narratives; they provide profound life principles and spiritual insights. These books, though fictional, have the power to enrich our understanding of the world and ourselves.

Reading for Learning: A New Perspective

Ryan Holiday, the author of best-seller books like "The Obstacle is the Way " and "Ego is the Enemy," argues that fiction can indeed be a tool for learning.

He states, 'I don’t read fiction for fun—I try to read novels that express some fundamental part of the human condition or some hard-won truth.' He recommends books such as "Fight Club" and "What Makes Sammy Run?"

Even though highly disciplined, best-selling authors like him read fiction, it's not for entertainment but for learning. Therefore, reading fiction is not a waste of time even for those of you who focus on self-improvement. Instead, reading fiction can be a form of self-improvement if approached with a learning mindset.

Okay, But How About Reading For Fun?

There's nothing wrong with reading purely for entertainment. Fiction can provide excitement, a sense of adventure, and a detachment from stressful day-to-day life.

Additionally, reading before bedtime can be a healthier alternative to scrolling through your phone, offering a way to wind down after a long day

The Power of Fiction and Manga

As a Japanese guy having grown up in Japan, I've read so many manga - dozens of them. I grew up with manga like One Piece, Naruto, and Dragon Ball, and I can attest to the impact of these stories. They not only provide excitement and amusement but also impart valuable life lessons. Here are some noteworthy benefits of reading manga and fiction:

  1. Adventure and Motivation: Characters in manga often start as underdogs, working hard to become the best. Their stories can inspire us to strive for our goals.

  2. Lessons about Friendship: Many manga emphasize the importance of camaraderie and loyalty.

  3. Knowledge Gain: Some manga incorporate scientific and psychological facts, providing readers with an enjoyable learning experience.

  4. Insight into Human Nature: Manga can reveal different aspects of human behavior and emotions.

  5. Humor and Laughter: Manga can provide a good laugh, lifting our spirits and relieving stress.

The Downside of Fiction and Manga

Despite the many benefits, I've realized that reading fiction can also have its drawbacks:

Disappointment in Reality When Comparing Reality and Fictional Worlds

I have experienced this feeling a lot after finishing reading manga—realizing there's no magic, monsters, supernatural powers, or a heart-pounding dangerous-adventurous journey in the real world. Where's Hogwarts? Where are the hidden treasures? Excessively immersing yourself in fiction can lead to a sense of depression. It's essential to draw the line and not lose touch with the real world.

Some Fictions Are Toxic—Watch Out for What You Read

I have come across quite a lot of toxic manga that can negatively affect mental health. By "toxic fiction," I mean those that are grotesque, sexual, cruel, or involve psychopathic murder. You might not realize it, but they can act as negative affirmations, potentially leading to feelings of depression. Therefore, when reading fiction, you need to be careful about the books you choose. Before picking the book, better ask, "Is this healthy content?'' or "Does this bring about positive emotions?'' 

Indeed, Some Fiction Can be a Waste of Time

I have often felt that I wasted my time after finishing some manga, as I spent so much time on fiction instead of doing something I should have. It's essential to be mindful of how much time you're dedicating to reading fiction because, ultimately, it's for entertainment purposes, and often it doesn't contribute to education unless you're reading educational fiction like 'The Alchemist' or any other fiction that imparts valuable lessons.

How to Enhance Your Fiction Reading Experience for Self-Improvement

If you're a fiction fan and are thinking of optimizing your reading fiction experience to connect with self-improvement, here are some tips for reading fiction with the goal of personal improvement:

Not Reading Mindlessly, but Learning from Fiction

Now I actively seek out valuable lessons and positive character traits in the stories I read. Fictional narratives often provide insights and characters with qualities such as kindness, generosity, and loyalty. Try to implement some of these traits from your favorite characters and contemplate what makes them attractive characters.

Choose Quality Fiction

It's preferable to explore 'educational fiction.' Look for book recommendations that offer lessons while still being entertaining. Consider exploring best-selling fiction or classics; there's a reason why they are popular.


Optimal Time for Reading Fiction

To optimize productivity, avoid reading fiction during the day when you need to focus on your important work. If you decide to indulge in fiction, do it before going to bed or during moments when you don't have the mental energy left to absorb information from educational books.


Reading fiction is far from a waste of time. It can be an enriching experience that provides entertainment, education, and insights into the human condition. As long as we approach it with mindfulness and intent, fiction can indeed be a valuable tool for growth and self-improvement.


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