5 reasons to read more novels

4 Aug

It’s better to be entertained than amused: Although most people think of entertain and amuse as synonyms – and they’re even presented that way in many dictionaries and thesauruses – they’re actually different concepts. Amuse comes Greek words that literally mean, “without thinking.” That’s an apt description for what happens when you watch TV or movies. Your brain just sort of turns off and takes it all in. There’s not a lot of thinking involved. That’s not a good thing. But when you’re reading a book, you’re entertained – it holds your attention and gets you thinking. Thinking is good. Novels are good for your brain.

Novels are cost-effective: If you go to the movies, you pay $10 each for a couple of hours of amusement. If you want something to eat or drink, that’s even more unless you sneak it in. A $10 novel gives you eight to twelve hours – or more – of reading enjoyment. And that $10 covers you and anyone else you want to share the book with. (You can share my ebooks – which are well under $10 – the same way.) Oh, and the bonus of reading a book wherever you want to – like in a comfy chair at home – is that you never have to sneak food in. Unless you’re on a diet. How’s that for cost-effective?

Novels can be re-enjoyed: I’ve bought a few movies on DVD. But I almost never watch them. I find that I really don’t enjoy most movies the second time around. On the other hand, most books contain such a wealth of clues, cues and foreshadowing that reading them a second time is a whole new experience. The third time through, when you are reading with the depth you gained the first and second times, is thoroughly enjoyable. And any book you read three times is like an old friend you want to come back to and enjoy again and again.

Novels inspire us: I read the other day that some foundation is going to spend millions trying to figure out how to make their documentaries more effective at prompting people to take action. I’ve worked on documentaries, promotional booklets, short stories, articles, novels – I think that just about everything you can write, I’ve written. (Though it pains me to admit it, the first piece I ever sold was a poem.) And I can tell you two things: First, a story is more effective than the facts. And second, people react very differently to movies and video than to books and other written stories. Movies and videos primarily impact people emotionally, but they seldom make people think. (See the first point.) Books and other written stories make people think. And if the story is powerful enough and written well, it hits people emotionally too. That combination of emotional impact and thinking is what spurs us to action. Novels inspire us.

Novels remind us of real life, and that’s good: Television is lived out in half-hour and hour segments, usually with a happy ending, or at least a conclusion to the story. The main characters can’t die, unless it’s the end of the season and their contract isn’t renewed. It’s a series, after all. These days, a lot of movies want to leave things open for a sequel, or a continuing series, so you have a pretty good idea going in what is going to happen. Not so novels. A lot of novels are also written as a series these days, but characters can still come and go. (It’s easier for an author – you have no contracts with your characters.) But more importantly, the timespan is greater and more flexible. The author has eight to twelve hours of your time, or perhaps even twenty hours (if the book is compelling) to take you through the story. OK, but how is it good that novels remind us of real life? They remind us to persevere; to pay attention to the details; and to enjoy the journey.

So crack open a good book and enjoy the journey! I wouldn’t mind in the least if you try one of mine …

The House in the Old WoodKaria's Path

Oh, and remember to vote so I know which characters to include in Book 5, The White-Silver House.

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