I came across this excerpt while reading a longer article and I think it's one of the most eloquently expressed explanations of why reading fiction is important. Sure, I know a lot of people don't like fiction because it's not history, it's not real, and they won't learn any new facts. But, as it turns out, that's the point:
Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.
These wise words come from a fiction author, of course, Ann Pratchett, writing in the NYT. But they are, in my opinion, wise words indeed.