World Book and Copyright Day: Here's why escapist fantasy shouldn’t be looked down upon

For many, fiction books offer solace from the harsh realities of life. They become a safe haven when the going gets tough, and one feels like resting

Manasi Y MastakarUpdated: Saturday, April 23, 2022, 08:48 PM IST
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Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the lights.’ Albus Dumbledore’s famous quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban aptly describes one’s feelings for fiction books. They are the light for many when they are going through a dark phase. People consciously pick up fiction when too overwhelmed to face problems. They are the escape route — whether it’s the magical world of Harry Potter, the romantic-suspense narratives of Nora Roberts or Jack Reacher escapades... they help forget worries for most, even if it’s just for a few hours. Even Sigmund Freud believed that the desire to escape is an ingrained human condition. “(Humans) cannot subsist on the scanty satisfaction they can extort from reality,” he said.

Tell me why

There are many reasons why a reader prefers to pick fiction. Be it creative stimulation or escapism; fiction books have something for every type of reader.

For media professional Sonal K, fictional tales allow her to destress. “Whenever a personal or work-related problem stresses me out, I pick a murder mystery or fantasy. These books allow me to escape from the situation for a while. It also helps me revisit the issues with fresh perspective,” she shares.

But, for Kadambari Mehta, Founder of Baby Book Babbles — Children’s Library and Storytelling Program, fiction books are an entry into the mind of the writer. “Sometimes, I read fiction to complement what may have been going on in my mind, my life or the world around me,” she states.

Through fiction, readers often live vicariously through the characters. Bibliotherapist, counsellor, author, poet and founder of Book Therapy, Bijal Shah’s feels healthy escapism is simply a form of distraction to give us the headspace to get through a difficult phase or moment. “Often fiction offers that gateway to another world that’s different to yours. Sometimes we need that fantasy and escapism as a way to take a break from the painful moments of reality. In the past, if I have been struggling with a romantic relationship or experienced a breakup, I’ve picked up books on romance,” says Bijal. “Sometimes it is simply that space to have some time to take a break from overthinking so that you can have more clarity when you come back to your issue in the present moment. Our imaginations are the perfect place to seek refuge from our mental health triggers.”

Drawing a line

Escapism might be frowned upon by many, some might even think of it as cowardice, but it’s not bad as long as one puts a limit to it and draws a line so that it doesn’t turn into an addiction.

“Sometimes life does put you into situations where adaptation can become a burden and a major source of stress. Here escapism in the form of reading fiction can help if done with a full realisation of the limitations involved,”explains Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai. “Being in and interpreting your own world of fiction can give some minutes of respite to recharge and have a chance to change thought patterns. However, one must be careful, and not get overly immersed, and completely forget real situations. It isn’t even necessary that people who have problems are the ones that get immersed in reading fiction. Many get into it for building creativity and free-thinking,” she adds.

“Reading is rather healthy, is what I’d say. A short trip that stimulates your imagination and creativity is more therapeutic than something merely meant for escaping reality,” shares Dr Samudrika Patil, author of Black Book of Love.

Every person has different coping mechanisms. For some, it’s fictional books, for some, it can be games, music, watching videos, etc., that brings them momentary relief from daily problems.

Whatever the reason might be, don’t be ashamed to read a book if it helps you cope better with reality — as long as you don’t totally disconnect from reality in the process.

Sites that offer free ebooks for download and reading

Fussy Librarian, Library Genesis, Many Books: You can download free e-books and PDFs from these sites. Fussy Librarian sends the books directly to your device.

Open Library: From Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and more, you can find all kinds of classic books are available here for free reading.

Novel Free Read Online: You can read works by contemporary writers like Susan Hill, Sylvia Day, Stephanie Meyer, Dean Koontz, etc, for free here.

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