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Is Fiction More Powerful Than Truth?

Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded how influential writers really are.

Fiction can be more effective at explaining global issues than factual reports, according to a recent study by a team from Manchester University and the London School of Economics. Read more about it here.

The study says that books like Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner have “arguably done more to educate Western readers about the realities of daily life in Afghanistan under the Taliban and thereafter than any government media campaign, advocacy organization report or social science research."

While a segment on the news might hold our interest for a few moments before becoming part of that day’s information overload, the characters and scenes from the books we love stay with us long after we’ve put them back on the shelf. I admit that when I see or read a report from Afghanistan, the picture of everyday life that was so vividly painted in The Kite Runner does immediately come to my mind—not as a substitute for current events, but as a context in which to view them.

That said, I cannot imagine having learned more about a woman’s life in Iran from a novel than I did from Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. The study doesn’t seem to take into account readable, engrossing nonfiction as part of the picture.

What do you think? What novels or other books have expanded your worldview?

—Jessica

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