Why (& how) I started reading fiction

May 30, 2015

TLDR: Find someone you admire. Look at what they read. A lot of your heroes were inspired by fiction. That’s how & why I started. Now I’m hooked. Reading fiction does something different/better to your brain than nonfiction. And good fiction writers understand the world in a big way.

Non-fiction is like taking vitamin c capsules while (good) Fiction is like eating organic blueberries.

Ok. This is something I swore I would never do.
Because reading fiction is boring and tedious.
Plus every single thing I was forced to read in highschool english class was torture.

But something changed in the past few months.
I switched from 100% non-fiction to being addicted to fiction.

First, how many chops of an axe does it take to down an oak tree?
I don’t know.
But it’s definitely not one.
And not 5.
Maybe 50 or 100?

It was like that with reading fiction.
I tried with many books and couldn’t last more than a couple of pages.
It took many tries and the right authors to get hooked.

I’ve read Sherlock Holmes in the past.
Because I love detective stories.
I think because I wanted to change my life. And changing life is kind of a mystery. You need to put all the parts of your life puzzle together.
And Sherlock is the best at solving complex mysteries.

Then I read P.G. Wodehouse.
He wrote funny light stories centering around Wooster (rich dumb lovable aristocrat guy) and Jeeves (uber smart, polite, superhuman butler).

I hunted this book down because they are a favorite of Charlie Munger.
It took me a couple of tries to get past the first few pages and get the rhythm. But once I started, I couldn’t stop and read every one of the series.

You cannot be unhappy while reading Wooster & Jeeves.

Stephen Fry says this:
“What a very, very lucky person you are. Spread out before you are the finest and funniest words from the finest and funniest writer the past century ever knew…Without Wodehouse I am not sure that I would be a tenth of what I am today…He taught me something about good nature. It IS enough to be benign, to be gentle, to be funny, to be kind.”

That brings me to the main point.
To get hooked on fiction, first hunt down some of your real-life heroes.
Then try reading their favorite fiction.
Your heroes were shaped by reading these types of books.
And you are more likely to follow their word of mouth.

For example…
Jeff Bezos recommends:
1. Remains of the Day as his favorite fiction book.
Because it showed him that being stubborn to change is really dangerous.

2. Mr. Pine’s Purple House
“my favorite childhood book — Mr. Pine’s Purple House. I think you’ll agree that the world is a better place when things are a little bit different. My mother dutifully read this book to me, at my request, hundreds of times as a child. Thank you, Mom.”

It showed him that having a purple house while everyone else had plain houses was a benefit. Be different. Be unique.

Since I admire Jeff, wanted to see what made him tick.
So I started reading those two books.

Elon Musk
I was curious how a uber productive guy like him could exist.
He talks about reading 1000s of books as a child. THOUSANDS.

He loves Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Because it showed him that it’s more important to ask the right question before looking for the right answer.

Another of his favorites is the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.
Once I read this, I got why he wants to travel to mars. And all the other tech stuff he’s doing. Asimov writes about humanity’s future, robots, and space exploration in his books. PS: Prelude to Foundation (which he wrote last) is an easier & funner read than The Foundation.

His Robot Series are also a must read. Caves of Steel is a murder mystery novel with humans & the first positronic brain robot (Data from Star Trek was inspired by this).

Lastly, Bill & Melinda Gates
They love The Rosie Project.
And so do I.
It’s so good that I guarantee you will laugh out loud multiple times within the first 5 pages. I read it straight thru, only breaking for sleep.

The book is a romantic comedy. Main hero is a Sheldon Cooper type guy. Who is looking to find a wife in a scientific manner. With hilarious consequences. And there’s some mystery sprinkled in to keep you interested addicted.

Happy reading!

1. Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy
2. Want to be Smarter? Read Fiction – podcast #280 by James Altucher & Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Oceans 13)