Facing my Fear of Fiction

Fiction scares me.

No, really.

I gravitate pretty exclusively to nonfiction.

But in my mind, I've been a fiction reader wannabe. Year after year, I've promised myself to just do it. To start digesting fiction.

And yet, it all seems so overwhelming and intimidating.

So many types of fiction from which to choose:  mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and horror fiction. And much more.

Stroll through the rows of shelving units of adult fiction on the third floor of the Des Plaines Public Library. An estimated 54,500 titles in print, I'm told. (That does not include other fiction collections on this floor, such as the high school section, and other formats--audiobooks and playaways.)

Third floor of the Des Plaines Public Library

Moreover, what if I pick the wrong author?

The wrong series by my chosen author?

The wrong book in that series? What if I read that series in the wrong order?

What if I get the characters mixed up?

If I seriously start reading fiction, would I be a traitor to nonfiction?

At the same time, I've heard that injesting fiction is most beneficial.

Compelled to search for evidence, I found, among other sources of information, an opinion piece published March 17, 2012 in the New York Times:  "Your Brain on Fiction," by Annie Murphy Paul.

One of the experts she referenced was Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto. Oatley also is a published novelist.

According to Oatley and Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, reading fiction promotes empathy. In other words, individuals who often read fiction seem better equipped to understand others and to view the world through their eyes. So reported Oatley and Mar, in concert with several other scientists, in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009.

In Paul's article, Oatley is quoted as pointing out that fiction:

"is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life."

Translation? Reading fiction is good for you.

OK, this time I'll really give it a shot.

What should I start with?

I could ask my Readers' Services colleagues for suggestions. However I want to figure this out for myself, based on my interests and curiosities.

There's no shortage of help. For example, NoveList Plus, an electronic database of reading recommendations accessible from the library's web site.

Also, goodreads Plus, library journals and numerous other credible sources.

Not to devour too much at the outset, here's my plan:  I'm going to pick one fiction book title that is not part of a series. Just o-n-e.

Fear, I'm a comin.'

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