Fiction Engages the Mind

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I love a good story. The problem is that I seem to have very little time to read good stories. This is most unfortunate, because stories bring with them so many benefits for the soul. Fictional stories teach us about life; they let us see the world from another perspective. Good stories help us to develop our imaginations. They equip us to make wise choices. They cause us to tap into the creative part of our minds that lead us to new ideas. Stories motivate us to become better people. By examining well developed characters, we are moved to examine ourselves. By reading well-contrived stories, we ask ourselves questions about politics, economics, faith and spirituality, ethics, love, and truth. In short, fictional stories help us to think.

When we read we are forced to use our minds to think about the characters, situations, plot, and the overall development of the work of art. Too often when we turn on the television or put on a movie, we turn off our minds. We are looking for an escape from our own reality. We find the escape, but we sacrifice critical thinking in the process. The issue I have with such practice is simple: All writers and directors have a message they are trying to convey. When we turn off our minds, the message still penetrates our souls and over time causes us to forget why we hold certain truths dear, and can lead to us no longer being able to really explain what we believe in the first place. But then, how could we if we have heard conflicting messages about the same issue without ever evaluating each message.

Books are different, it is impossible to turn of your mind as you read. Readers must remain alert and engaged. If they fail to engage, they will be unable to piece the story together. The beauty in reading is that as one engages the text, one necessarily ponders the claims the author makes through the characters and their situations. We evaluate these claims, and then we make decisions not only about how we are to perceive of the characters in the story, but about whether or not we believe the characters are correct in their motives. These evaluations then find their way into our own self reflection as we begin to question our own motives and our own views on significant issues in life.

Fiction teaches us how to live as it draws us into new worlds with characters we grow to love and sometimes hate. Fiction calls us to become better humans. It reminds us of our past, it guides us as we look to the future, and when read from a spiritual perspective, it draws us closer in our walk with the Lord.

To conclude this post, I wanted to provide a list of some of the greatest fictional works of all time along with some of the best works of the last 15 years.

  • The Iliad and the Odyssey (750 BC)
  • Oedipus Rex (430 BC)
  • Beowulf (700 AD)
  • Tristan and Isolde (1210)
  • Romeo and Juliet (1596)
  • Hamlet (1601)
  • Don Quixote (1605)
  • Macbeth (1606)
  • Tartuffe (1664)
  • Robinson Crusoe (1719)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1811)
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1812-1857)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Frankenstein (1818)
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831)
  • A Christmas Carol (1843)
  • Wuthering Heights (1847)
  • Moby Dick (1851)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
  • Great Expectations (1861)
  • Les Miserables (1862)
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1873)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • Treasure Island (1883)
  • The Jungle Book (1894)
  • The Time Machine (1895)
  • Dracula (1897)
  • The War of the Worlds (1898)
  • Heart of Darkness (1902)
  • The Hound of Baskervilles (1902)
  • The Sea Wolfe (1904)
  • The Wind and the Willows (1908)
  • A Passage to India (1924)
  • The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
  • The Good Earth (1931)
  • Gone with the Wind (1936)
  • Of Mice and Men (1937)
  • The Hobbit (1937)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1941)
  • The Little Prince (1943)
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • I, Robot (1950)
  • Charlotte’s Webb (1952)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
  • The Lord of the Ring (1954-1955)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
  • Schindler’s List (1982)
  • Ender’s Game (1985)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
  • The Life of Pi (2002)
  • The Kite Runner (2003)
  • The Book Thief (2005)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)

It is likely that some of your favorite books are not in this list. Why don’t you share some of your favorites in the comments below.

To see more great books published since 2000, check out this link: http://thegreatestbooks.org/the-greatest-fiction-since/2000

2 Comments
    • Dr. Scott Shiffer

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