Curling up with a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures, whether you’re reading on a tropical beach while on vacation or nestled into your favorite chair at home. As your eyes skim over the words, your mind conjures up images of the events unfolding on the page. Books can take us to fantastic places, real and imaginary, that we will never visit in our lifetime. And while there is some pleasure to be gained from nonfictional books, my favorite books all seem to fall in the realm of fiction. I am not alone. The science fiction and fantasy genre of literature continues to be one of the most popular. Why do so many readers find these types of books so enticing and engaging?
It all comes down to science, specifically neuroscience.
I enjoy science fiction (sci-fi) movies and television shows and include the original Star Wars trilogy in my top ten list of favorite movies—certainly Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back but less so the Return of the Jedi simply because I find the ewoks more annoying than cute. This choice in entertainment was probably imprinted upon me at an early age. At age 7, I saw Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as my first movie in a movie theater, and my brothers and I had piles of Star Wars-related toys. Also, I remember watching reruns of the original Star Trek but only when we could get grainy reception of a distant television station. I watched the original Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who during the Tom Baker years and even Pigs in Space on The Muppet Show. It was the late 1970s and 1980s, and I was surrounded by images of space travel, albeit the poor-quality, often cheesy sci-fi images typical of that era.
One of the greatest joys of my childhood was summertime. Despite growing up on a dairy farm, I was not a girl of the outdoors. Instead, I was a voracious reader, eagerly awaiting the weekly trip to the library for the next batch of books and devouring the stack of novels in my bedroom. I hated even leaving the books for meals (a house rule was “No reading at the table!”), and my mom despaired at my accidental “science experiments” known as the glasses of milk I left out on the floor next to my bed. The book genres have changed over the years, but my fondest memories were that of standing in front of the science fiction and fantasy section of the local library and trying to find a book that 1) I had not read before and 2) looked interesting.