When people ask me what I read and am not in the type of mood that results in me setting off on a two-hour rant on the perils of genre, I normally respond with a non-committal ‘pretty much anything, although I’m not a fan of the depressing’. And I mean it, I do. I’ll read crime and romance and fantasy and young adult and… non-fiction. I love popular science and popular history and social commentary and I’ll even read the odd biography.
The reading benefits (enjoyment, gaining knowledge) are obvious, but what about the writing benefits? There’s the obvious science fiction link – you read enough science to inspire a potentially possible but as yet not nonexistent/ undiscovered (or an alternative look at science, as seen in steampunk novels).
Biographies are also often a great way to get an insight into a world or an industry that you may not necessarily be that familiar with, but may inspire a whole new fictional world.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum: historical fiction. Is it fiction? Or is it history? Can it really be both? And what gives the author creative license to distort history in order to tell a good story? Writing good, believable historical fiction takes a lot of research, knowledge and patience.
And then you also have the flip side, where reality embraces fiction. According to a recent article by The Economist, this is exactly what lawyers love to do (see article here). If it’s good enough for the classroom, why shouldn’t it be good enough for real life?