Pretty strange comment to come from a creative type, no?
I watch movies and I'll watch TV shows, but if I'm going to spend dozens and dozens of hours reading, I'd rather read about something that's real. There's plenty of creativity in the real world. More than I'd ever be able to discover in 100 lifetimes.
You realize that movies and TV shows most certainly do not constitute the "real world"?
Nobody says you have to read fiction. But it's really a shame to take the weaker forms of escapism the world has to offer you rather than the deeper, ecstatic ones, just because the latter are in book form.
I still find his stance different as a lover of fiction, but I can't argue that a good book isn't also very time consuming, and if you allow that your time is precious, there are probably better uses for it.
But I can see why for some people, the basic realism of film might take them even further than a book and their own imagination. My original post sounded a bit more judgmental than intended.
It's all about the time issue for me. I read lots of long novels as a teen but it's either do that or actually do some work nowadays.
As an aside, the death of the short story as a significant literary force is worth mourning here too..
Fiction can be as real as the author wishes to make it, as an endeavor to elucidate their ideas and insights regarding the 'real world' through the telling of a story. I'd never be so audacious as to state "I hate non-fiction, there's very little to learn from boorish, presumptuous, and poorly considered interpretations of the author's reality"
This sort of navel-gazing article is uninteresting and of questionable real-world value, reminiscent of breathless puff pieces on the (soon to be forgotten) luminaries of .com technology that were so popular in the mid to late 1990s.
Why are ideas presented in the form of non-fiction any more "real" than ideas presented in the form of fiction?
Even the most literal non-fiction remains an expression of the author's opinion and ideas.
It's a very expensive form of entertainment when you value your time.
I find what I learn from well-chosen fiction and non-fiction to be equally valuable, and I value my time quite a bit.
I also would be very surprised that anyone who has time to comment here doesn't have time to read a fiction (or non-fiction) book.
The difference is that when you read fiction, you are in a world, a physical land that is entirely constructed by the mind of the author. The characters aren't bound by the same laws of physics that you and I are. When characters make decisions, the other characters react in the way the author wants, but real people may not react that way.
With nonfiction, there are rules. With fiction, there are no rules. In fact, you don't know what the rules are when you read fiction.
You know that quote about those who don't read history are doomed to repeat it? Well, there is a lot of history to read.
They're two different universes. One, fiction, is framed in a universe where we don't exist. The other, nonfiction, is in the same universe we all share here. In fiction, what goes up may not come down. If you shape your life or make decisions based on fictional ideas, they don't always apply in the real world. Sometimes they may, but mostly they do not.
Yes, you are right, lots of insights can be gained from fiction. I learned a lot reading slaughterhouse five. It's fiction, but it's also pretty real in a way. I learned a lot from 1984. I learn a lot from science fiction.
But there are is also a lot to learn and a lot of insights to be gained from nonfiction as well. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Think of it this way. If you only read fiction for the rest of your life, could you program a computer? Could you build a house? Could you understand quantum mechanics or any myriad other practical skills? Probably not.
This of course is my opinion, but if I had to choose between a future life of only fiction reading or a future life of only nonfiction reading, I would choose nonfiction. I think nonfiction is a better learning tool and a greater benefit to my life than fiction, because through nonfiction, I can learn facts that I can't learn through fiction. It's actually difficult and confusing sometimes to decipher truth from fiction.
My practical skills are only useful in their relation to my human condition, both of which warrant exploration.
This of course is my opinion, but if I had to choose between a future life of only fiction reading or a future life of only nonfiction reading, I would choose nonfiction.
Fortunately for all of us, that choice is entirely unnecessary, and I've no problem suggesting that anyone who actually dismisses either fiction or non-fiction is demonstrating a remarkable, frightening lack of insight.
I think it's actually quite insightful to understand that.
Find me a fiction book more profoundly descriptive of the human condition than The Divided Self by RD Laing.
Would you entertain the idea that perhaps it may be possible to explore the human condition deeper and more profoundly through nonfiction than through fiction?
It's not a contest.
You don't believe his book is an exploration of his own personal perspective on reality and meaning?
Of course The Divided Self is his exploration of the topic, but it's sold in the nonfiction section.
Well, you have enough time to comment here. Is this really a better exploration of the human condition (or whatever it is you want to achieve through reading) than non-fiction books?
If you could do either A or B and you believe B is better, then why would you do A?
In reality, fiction and non-fiction are not mutually exclusive unless you're obtuse enough to make them so. They're not even clearly distinct in their value or purpose.
I'm actually doing about 5 things right now. Playing a poker tournament, chatting with my wife, commenting here, watching an animal documentary on tv, and designing a new feature for my web application.
If I was reading, I'd only be doing one thing.
Movies and TV shows are principally fiction, sure; I think the salient distinction that people who are prejudiced against "fiction" make is as to the realism and real-world viability of what is involved, i.e. the way that "historical fiction" might stand in contradistinction with Harry Potter-style "fantasy."
I, for instance, as an otherwise ardent nonfictionalist, enjoy Star Trek, but don't enjoy Harry Potter or Tolkien novels. Take that for what it's worth.
I don't regularly read fiction, but I have about 3 novels that I've read in my lifetime that were absolutely spell binding, like the best movie * 1000. Never been absolutely tied to a book that you literally can't put it down until you finish it?
This is very wrong.
Without getting into the Latrodectus Mactans Productions quiz to prove our geek/hipster DFW cred: I just picked three writers of nonfiction with both very different prose styles and very different worldviews, and I don't think you'd disagree with my point.
eg. Neal Stephensons Young ladies illustrated primer or Cryptonomicon strike me that way - they make you think even more about what is real.
I've been a programmer (professionally) for 3-4 years now, been coding far longer than that and was wondering what your feelings were regarding CompSci degrees and the necessity (or not) of them.
Also, have you considered separating the "less is less" product and then creating the more "enterprisey" product as a separate entity and allowing your customers to upgrade within your product range instead of having in and out customer numbers?
I mention this as I think of companies that exercise pretty vigorous product differentiation (Microsoft's OEM versus Corporate licensing, Apple-anything) and your comment regarding not wanting to make your flagship product intimidating to new customers.
Just wondering what your thoughts were on those two questions, thanks.
Anyway, I think many "geeks" forget that you can read fiction for more than just the stories. The writing is usually more expressive, and reading that helps you become a better writer. That's why I read fiction, anyway. (OK, I like a good story, too.)
The real question is, however, why are we arguing about this?
It was a fairly intimate article providing an insight into the habits and life of JF and I found it slightly disconcerting that people were so quick to criticise what seems to be a personal choice.
(And of course, neither are as intellectually stimulating as a well-written novel. Which is the point of reading them, for me anyway.)
Maybe it's something about the online medium which is conducive to people making categorical statements or maybe that's just Jason's personality, but still I do find it odd.
Although I do agree with you that we've spent way too much time talking about it at this point...
What's the core of the argument? Is it that fiction is not intellectual enough? What about Milton, Shakespeare, and the profound insights they offer into the way people think? Is it not more interesting (and even persuasive) in that form than as a straight essay? What about science fiction, and the thought experiments it offers regarding our social and political systems?
What about films? Does Mr. Fried also ignore films that tell fictitious stories, or are they acceptable due to the reduced time requirement?
Yeah, I don't know. But it's surprising.
There's fiction I do read (I took on Infinite Jest this summer, and I'm slowly reading Blood Meridian), but it takes effort to engage with it; nonfiction never does.
Just another perspective.
I'm not trying to invalidate your perspective, but your rhetorical question suggests you really don't understand, beyond the point of your own preference, why people would read Shakespeare. That's incredibly bizarre to me.
My own perspective is that I'd rather lose a limb than swear off fiction for the rest of my life. I can't help feeling deeply sorry for people who can appreciate good literature but won't read it, for whatever reason - even if I understand how gratuitous and unwelcome this feeling may seem to them. It really is such an important part of what makes life worth living.
I'm honestly not aiming for hipster cred here (I haven't read Infinite Jest). Just another perspective.
There are a million things vying for our attention. We should invest it in things that we appreciate. There are also people who think fine wine is an important part of what makes life worth living, or marijuana, or Bach.
"to be weak is miserable doing or suffering: but of this be sure, to do aught good never will be our task, but ever to do ill our sole delight"
Snob? My first reaction is to dismiss them as philistines.
(Of course, I'm often wrong, and philistines are often smart people too...)
Surprising too. I often find more inspiration from fiction than non-fiction. Plenty of fiction work has factual elements of science and technology behind them; they are just stylized into a story. Often, it makes the reading more interesting.
Sorry; I'm really not "sticking up for Jason Fried" guy, it's just funny how we all get into this rut where everything that's posted here is a subject for critique. I'm as bad as anyone else. But, seriously? How he chooses to spend his spare time?
It's as if Jason's reading habits have caused the OP to take a different view of whether Basecamp is the right/wrong solution to their own needs.
On the flip side, one of my best buddies who has an extremely technical career path reads non-fic. almost exclusively, save for tech manuals.
To each, their very own. Especially when it comes to reading material, music and food.