Occasionally I come across a person who does not read fiction. To each his/her own, right? Even more occasionally, though, I come across a person who does not read fiction and does not see the value in reading fiction. (Yes, it's difficult not to punch such people in the face.)
I have roughly 1 million reasons to prove to fiction haters why it's not only a great way to spend your time but important (putting aside my belief that nobody needs to defend what he or she chooses to read). One of those reasons is that just because a text isn't expository or informational doesn't mean it doesn't teach the reader something. And I don't just mean in an emotional/psychological/empathetic sense. I mean facts.
For example, I'm reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society right now, which is charming and fantastic and also an epistolary novel, which I love. It's set immediately post-WWII in the Channel Islands, specifically Guernsey (duh, I guess--that's in the title). Here's my confession: I wasn't really aware of the Channel Islands before reading this. I knew of Guernsey and Jersey, because I am from Wisconsin and two types of cows are named after them.* I knew that they were places, but I always thought they shared a land mass with England. Wrong. They are actually an archipelago in the English Channel. I also had no idea that they were occupied by the Germans during WWII.
*In fourth grade, I believe, you have to memorize all the types of dairy cows: Holstein, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire, and the Milking Shorthorn. That was true even if you lived in a city and had never been near a cow, like me.
Would I ever have acquired an interest in the Channel Islands without reading this book? Probably not. I'm not much of a Brit-ophile, and I tend to like my islands tropical. But reading this book has made me extremely interested in Guernsey. I've spend time over the past week indulging the interest I've developed through reading this novel. That is one of the great benefits of reading fiction--it introduces us to ideas, people, and places we wouldn't have known we were interested in otherwise.
What topics have you become fascinated by, thanks to fiction?