Learning about life through stories and novels

novels

I am interested in reading and writing since the age of twelve.

Novels have always fascinated me and more interestingly, I felt that I am exploring worlds that I have never been before when I am reading them. It could be a realm of fantasy where dragons fought with paladins. It could be a scene set in Tokyo, where a group of strangers collide in various forms of conversation and banter. These stories could also revolve around a cat-and-mouse chase between a cop and a felon.

Regardless of the type of novels or the milieus contained in them, these are places and sites not unlikely to be visited by readers themselves (be it due to the fact that the stories take place in the 1800s, the worlds are imagined or that one is not in the professions of the various protagonists).

Hence, novel reading broadens our world and widens our insights.

Nevertheless, there are more benefits to reading novels than what is mentioned. For instance:

1. A psychological study of human nature: Novel reading is – to a certain degree – a study into the plight of the human conditions. Through the motives, intentions, actions and speech of the various characters, it is not surprising that one learns about how humans are motivated by the extreme ends of the morality spectrum, be it greed or altruism. Various character studies can also be made and these understandings and insights can be used by readers in their lives. William Shakespeare was right in saying that “All the world’s a stage. and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” What is portrayed in plays and movies serves the same introspective function as the novel. It’s just that novels offer a more in-depth look at character study than the rest.

2. An opportunity for self-reflection: Characters in the novels are great mirrors that we should hold up in front of us for self-reflection. Most characters in the stories should look and sound familiar to us, be it the fact that we have seen some of them in real life before or more interestingly, we could see some qualities of these characters in ourselves. We can draw references and advice from the story to further enhance our character or use them for problem solving. There is a Chinese saying “人生 如 戏”, which means that our lives are just like movies. Along the same vein, fictional stories act as a mirror to our lives as well.

3. Humour: While it does not apply in all cases, stories often provide us with light-hearted humour that not only relaxes us but also provide some respite from the heavy materials laden in certain novel genres, such as crime and thriller. When the stories get dark and sombre, the infusion of humour balances the imbalance. And much can be learn from humour, if one reads the joke deeply enough. One can find such insightful humour peppered throughout Shamini Flint‘s novels. Her works in the arena of adult novels infuses dark humour with interesting doses of human nature that often keeps readers entertained for hours. And it was with great delight that I discovered that one of her novels have been included in one of the compendiums of 2012’s Reader Digest’s Select Editions (where four selected novels are edited for better reading and condensed into a single volume).

4. Great opportunity to learn communication skills: It has been said that the most interesting conversations that materialised in novels are gathered through an acute observation of the authors’ surroundings and experiences. This is true since the best conversations are the ones that adhere to the readers’ own experiences. In other words, the conversations that relate closely to human nature are often the ones that resonate the most deeply in us. The more detailed and meticulous authors are able to construct interesting conversations, the wider are their outreach in relating to their readers. In stories as in life, conversations are the sequences that gel people and situations together and hence, it could make or break relationships. Hence, reading novels is one way of gaining mastery over one’s communication skills – be it intrapersonal or interpersonal.

I realise that I have began a gradual shift from fiction to non-fiction over time, up to a point where my current reading list comprises mostly of biographies of business leaders, social media marketing, educational enrichment materials and self-improvement books.

Nevertheless, I often make it a point to read only novels when I am at home, and only turning to other reading materials while I am travelling to and from work.

This is because after much contemplation, I realise that I cannot give up on my roots – the highly-valued novels that transform me into a better person everyday.

In the age of the ebooks, may short stories and novels continue to thrive – for they may well be the best route to take in our path towards personal development.

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