Written by Alifa Ainun Lukum, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
“Reading fiction is a waste of time,” you have probably heard those words before. Some people argue that reading fictional books sucks time because it reduces productivity. On the other hand, some people reason that reading fictional books could be a form of self-escapism from reality. Regardless of which side you are on, reading books, in general, is a good thing because it takes us away from gadgets and other distractions.
By reading fiction, there are many benefits that you can gain. One of them is that fiction can increase people’s empathy and compassion. Characters from fiction hook us into stories. Aristotle, a prominent Greek philosopher, stated that when we watch a tragedy, two emotions predominate: you feel pity (for the character) and fear (for yourself). Without even noticing, we imagine what it is like to be the character and compare their reactions to situations with our own. In addition, according to the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab, psychologist Diana Tamir has shown that people who often read fiction have stronger social cognition. Specifically, they are more skilled at understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings.
Reading fiction could also be a good start to increase your interest in reading. As we know, interest in reading does not appear instantly. To grow interest in reading, it requires the awareness and desire of each individual. For example, interest can develop when someone likes something that grabs their attention. Therefore, if you want to start gaining interest in reading, it is always good to start with something light and enjoyable, and you can find it in works of fiction. That being said, here are some recommended fiction titles to kickstart your reading journey:
“If Cats Disappeared from the World” by Genki Kawamura
This book tells the story of our main character, who is estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat, Cabbage, for company. One day, he is diagnosed by a doctor, saying that he has only months to live. Before he can tackle his bucket list before leaving this world, suddenly, the Devil appears with a special offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. What is the thing that he wants to make disappear?
This is a heartwarming story that puts things into perspective about human connection. It emphasizes the importance of living, doing what we want to, and not taking things for granted. This book is easy to read because the writing style is fun and the way the author puts jokes in his narration. You can also read it in Indonesian, easily found at your local bookstore.
“Aroma Karsa” by Dee Lestari
One of the best Indonesian authors, Dee Lestari, wrote this book. Aroma Karsa tells the story of Jati Wesi, a young man who can smell aromas beyond ordinary people. He has lived in a landfill all his life, which is why he got his ability. One day, he was arrested by the police after his workplace was accused of plagiarizing perfume compositions from another company. However, he was given two choices: stay in prison or leave and be free, but he had to work with the perfume company that sued him.
This book is worth reading if you like fantasy, mystery, adventure, and historical fiction. The author will take you to a new world of senses, where you can live in the historical imagination of ancient Java but still intertwined with modern life. Also, the mystery that holds the story will make you curious, which makes this book a real page-turner.
“Tokyo Zodiac Murders” by Sōji Shimada
This is another Japanese literature recommendation; this is the kind of book that you can pick up if you want a mystery, detective, or thriller genre. The story is about an astrologer, fortuneteller, and self-styled detective, Kiyoshi Mitarai, who must, in one week, solve a mystery that has baffled Japan for about 40 years.
Who murdered the artist Umezawa, sexually assaulted and killed his daughter, and chopped the bodies to create Azoth, the supreme woman? The author of this book encourages you to unravel the mystery with clues that the author served, such as maps, charts, and other illustrations. This book will be enjoyable if you like detective stories like Sherlock Holmes and Detective Conan.
Living in this busy world can sometimes overwhelm us, primarily when technology serves us a lot of information, even in the blink of an eye. It is time for us to take things slowly and live in the moment. Reading fiction books reduces your stress and allows you to practice taking on someone else’s perspective and thus improve your social awareness, which is good for your work life or even your relationships.
Hammond, C. (2019, June 3). Does reading fiction make us better people? BBC. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190523-does-reading-fiction-make-us-better-people
Tamir, D. I., Bricker, A. B., Feder, D. D., & Mitchell, J. P. (2016, September 1). Reading fiction and reading minds: the role of simulation in the default network. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 11(2), 221-222. 10.1093/scan/nsv114