Books Are Beautiful Not Just Because They're Escapist But Because They Inspire Real-World Change
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Books Are Beautiful Not Just Because They're Escapist But Because They Inspire Real-World Change

Escapism is wonderful in limited quantities, but so is the ability that stories have to teach us truths about courage, struggles, justice, love, and heartbreak – all of which we find in the real world.

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Books Are Beautiful Not Just Because They're Escapist But Because They Inspire Real-World Change

I have read a great assortment of books throughout my life, yet the genre I've always been most drawn to is fiction. Of course, the word "fiction" is rather broad and encompasses a wide range of books, including (but not limited to) fantasy, mysteries, historical fiction, and science fiction. Regardless, in all my years of reading, I've noticed that all good fiction books possess a couple of key characteristics that make fiction both beautiful and impactful.

In particular, I find it beautiful that fiction can both 1) be our escape from reality and 2) prompt us to inspire change in the real world. Oftentimes, when I pick up a novel, I just want to escape into a different world, one that is thrilling and fantastical and that gives me a break from the ordinary mundanity of everyday life. And it doesn't even have to be a work of fantasy – any work of fiction, when well-written, sucks me into its pages and makes me invested in made-up scenarios and made-up characters.

I may find myself journeying out West to the wild frontier, traveling in a spaceship to the edges of the galaxy, or trekking across Middle-earth to the fires of Mordor. No matter the setting (whether it's in our world or not), I love being so caught up in made-up scenarios with fictional characters that when I finally take a break from reading, I feel disoriented coming back to reality. Indeed, that is part of the beauty of fiction/novels: being drawn into another time or place and being allowed to find joy and peace and rest in giving our minds a break from everyday life.

However, this beauty also poses a danger – for if we allow ourselves to get too caught up in a world that exists only in books and in our minds, we risk being cut off from the world around us. For as wonderful as it is to escape reality for a few hours and become lost in our imaginations, we must never allow our love for fiction and occasional escapism to block out the reality that is the world around us. We have everyday lives to attend to, tasks to accomplish, and people around us to love and cherish.

Of course, fiction may often seem more thrilling and captivating than our ordinary reality, but we must never miss the beauty of the world around us, tainted and scarred as that beauty often is. Forcing ourselves to confront the reality that surrounds us is not always easy or desirable, but we must never let fiction and imagination cut us off from the lives we have and the people we interact with. For as difficult and mundane as reality can be, it is often beautiful too – and it is what is real.

The people around us matter more than the made-up characters in books, for real people, as broken as they are, are who we can form real relationships with and who can become such pivotal figures in our lives. Real people suffer and cry and need love – our love. They can also laugh and love and show kindness. Either way, if we ignore these real people in favor of fiction, we miss out on the opportunity to make a difference in their lives and to see the influence they can have on ours. Fictional characters can show emotion too, but they are not real. Real, beautiful people are who need our time and attention. Furthermore, the "setting" that we find ourselves in in the real world, be it a suburban home or a rural farm, matters more than the thrilling fantasy worlds we fall in love with – for these real places are where we can make a difference, and this world is what the people after us will inherit. Thus, the escapist quality of books can potentially be dangerous by cutting us off from this reality.

But here's the amazing thing – books don't just have to be escapist, for even the most fantastical books contain truths that are significant to the real world. Indeed, books that are deep and well-written go beyond just being an entertaining story – they prompt us to think and reflect on what we have read, and they challenge us to change our attitudes/perceptions and to take action in a way that changes the world around us.

Case in point: Ray Bradbury's sci-fi novel "Fahrenheit 451" immerses us in a futuristic world full of gadgets and technology (though, truth be told, the world of this novel doesn't seem so futuristic to 21st-century readers). Rather than just being mindless entertainment, "Fahrenheit 451" forces readers to confront the potential dangers of a world completely immersed in technology, especially when such technology threatens our ability to think critically for ourselves and makes us shallow and mindless, addicted to the thrill of being connected to a screen and missing out on the world around us. Essentially, the novel forces us to think about our technology use and how it affects us. Thus, "Fahrenheit 451" tells a compelling, thought-provoking story that both sucks readers into the plot and prompts them to change their attitudes and behavior in the real world.

Overall, then, the beauty of fiction lies in both its escapist qualities and in its ability to inspire change in the real world. These characteristics may seem contradictory, but they don't have to be, as long as we allow ourselves to enjoy fiction without letting it rule our lives and replace reality. We can love reading a good story and getting caught up in a made-up scenario, but a work of fiction can also change how we think and act in reality. Escapism is wonderful in limited quantities, but so is the ability that stories have to teach us truths about courage, struggles, justice, love, and heartbreak – all of which we find in the real world.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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