Opinion: Broaden your horizons with fictional literature

Contemporary fictional masterpieces like Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring not only broaden the imagination, but may increase empathic comprehension, according to a recent study at the New School for Social Research in New York.

While textbooks that are required reading for students help to hone in their grasp of the course material, they risk missing out on the emotional pull a journey through Middle Earth generates, or the suspense of facing an extinction-level event against an alien menace.

There are more creative and imaginatively sparking literatures of fiction in publication than ever before, and it’s time that students actively seek out these treasures while perusing through their academic pursuits.

Not only do fictional works help break a repetitive cycle of non-fiction overload, they build on critical development points essential to not just a student, but anyone.

College students who open themselves up to the vibrant worlds of fiction may find themselves more able to detect and understand people’s emotions, as recent evidence suggests from a study performed by psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano at the New School for Social Research in New York.

While it is critical in any student’s reading curriculum, non-fiction doesn’t hold a candle to the empathic exploration that the worlds of creative fiction introduce.

A more empathetic college population can only bring more positive reinforcement from teaching faculty and a more focused desire to learn beyond classroom borders on part of the students.

Because of humans’ limited amount of senses, it is natural to feel as if we are the center of the universe. After all, the events that seemed more impactful or more important happened to us directly.

It is so easy to get caught up with getting stuck in the mantra that there is only one way of thinking, and fictional works open up that gateway that allows us to see worlds we’ve never dreamed of through the eyes of people we’ve never met, but feel like we’ve known all along by the end of the journey.

Granted, college students are furiously occupied in the 21st century, juggling college courses with a social life and and work all at the same time.

Despite our perceived lack of time in the hustle and bustle that is college life, there is a simple solution to adding fictional masterpieces like Slaughterhouse-Five or Song of Solomon into our schedules.

With the advent of tablets and smartphones, it is now easier than ever to take your favorite fiction on the go and have it available for easy access, no matter where you are.

The downtime one has in-between classes or even waiting in the doctor’s office is a prime opportunity to open your mind to the dystopian struggles painted in a Handmaid’s Tale.

The long and winding wait at Starbucks in the student center can be soothed with a brief retreat into magical and exhilarating wonders found at Hogwarts and beyond in the Harry Potter series.

Audiobooks are another effective platform for satiating the crave for fiction during activities like long car commutes. Students who have issues such as Dyslexia may find a better experience with the narration afforded by audiobooks as well.

Money, the ever-giant wall that continually stares down on students, does not have to be a reason to avoid printed or electronic versions of fictional works.

The American River College’s library carries both printed and electronic books, and students can utilize other resources like the Sacramento Public Library to supplement their book collection.

Many fictional works are also available for free online at websites like goodreads.com.

Studies are confirming what many avid fiction fans have noticed for some time now – the medium opens up the exploration of human understanding and is vital in any reader’s book collection.

Go ahead, let yourself be taken up into the journey of a lifetime as you forage through treacherous landscapes sprawling with evil orcs and angry ringwraiths in an attempt to destroy the great evil that lies in Mordor.

You’ll thank me later.

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About the Author

Joseph Daniels
Joseph Daniels is a forth-semester student on the Current, where he serves as the magazine editor. He is majoring in journalism and plans to transfer to Sacramento State.

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