I tend to go through reading-genre phases. Recently, I have read all short stories for awhile, followed by science fiction, a short stint in realistic fiction, and then a leap to adolescent fiction.
...good fiction doesn’t tend to console but rather to complicate, to baffle our desire for easy explanation, to give us not what we want but what we suspect is more meaningful, more akin to the complexity we encounter in life.
I also appreciate Waldman's points about two benefits (variety and perspective) that made-up characters offer their readers. (Read her essay here in its entirety.)
What is the last great novel you read? How would you defend it to fault-finders?