This is a very “little” question, but I’ve been curious for a long time: are monks ever allowed to read fiction? It makes sense to me that monks would focus on spiritual literature, but there are some Christian works of fiction that have taught me more about the spiritual life than any non-fiction book (particularly C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings). It would seem like a very great loss to never have access to these works again.
Absolutely, monks may read fiction. I'm sure some monasteries are stricter than others, but at the Benedictine house which my college was attached to, they had a rather large library of all kinds of novels.
The Visitation Sisters in Massachusettes had the "Lord of the Rings" book collection in their library. They don't let newer Sisters read just whatever they want though so they can focus on Religion. When they are there a long time, then they can read whatever from the library. They also have internet use at the convent, but I think that is also allowed just after you are there a long time.
That's great to hear. :) I am actually interested in Benedictine life, so that's especially good to hear, Edward.
Obviously we shouldn't be overly attached to anything, but I've come to feel very strongly about the power of good literature in the Catholic spiritual life. Not that something small like this would matter if I do have a vocation, but it's nice to know. :) I really would say that next to the Bible, Tolkien's works have inspired me the most in the pursuit of God.
I was a novice in a Norbertine Abbey for two years, from experience:
Novices were not allowed to read philosophy, fiction, the newspaper, or magazines, nor may he freely read spiritual works (these must be approved on a case by case basis). We were required to submit a list of all books we had read in the month for review by the novice master. It seems really strict, but really, with the work load of our classes, you really didn't think much of reading fiction or heavy spiritual works, your classwork was more than enough to satisfy.
Simple professed may freely read all of the above, with permission from the master of Juniors/novices on a case by case basis for novels, similar to the novices with spiritual works.
Solemn professed are free to read anything available in the libraries.
again, each monastery will have their own particular rules, this is just one example