I was visiting this acquaintance in his home. I consider him an extremely intelligent man. I had already seen quite a few bookshelves there, so I asked a followup question. "What kinds of books do you read?"
"Self-help. Collections of sermons. Books on ministry. Once in a while a biography. But I haven't read a novel since college."
My Christian friend was not boasting, nor complaining about a lack of time. He was simply stating a fact: Yes, he is a reader, but no, not a reader of fiction. For him, fiction holds no interest. He didn't call it frivolous, but for him, that's probably the bottom line. (And, just to be balanced here, I'm sure there are many atheists who might not read the same kinds of books as my friend, but who would agree they have no interest in fiction.)
Although I won't cast stones at a great guy for not engaging his imagination through novels--and I'm sure there are many good people just like him--I can't help thinking that people who never crack a novel miss out on something worthwhile. The world is full of novels, some classics, some newer. Some novels compel readers to think about things they've never considered before and can actually deepen or change readers for the better. Other novels may provide humor, or vicarious adventure, or a temporary escape from the pressures of life.
Is fiction a waste of time for truly serious thinkers? Well, Jesus Christ doesn't seem to think so. Although we label them "parables," the Son of God frequently told short fiction stories in order to teach with vivid examples. In Judges 9, the Word of God painstakingly records every word of a short fantasy tale about talking trees that Jotham concocted in order to denounce Abimeleh, the murderous new king of Shechem. So, in at least one case, the Lord didn't consider a fantasy story to be a waste of time or space.
If you're reading this, chances are that you're a reader, right? Do you read fiction in any form? Short stories? Novels? If so, would you say they enrich your life? Or are they merely a fun diversion from life?