The French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio won the 2008 Nobel prize in literature. I love this quote he gave (from the NY Times article on the announcement). It conveys one of the reasons why I think it's so important to write and read fiction.
Asked at the news conference if he had any message to convey, Mr. Le Clézio said: “My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.”