TED Conversations

Amgad Muhammad

This conversation is closed.

What's the point of novels?

All of us would agree that reading for facts and knowledge widens our perspective, but what does reading novels do?
Do we read novels for the sole purpose of entertaining ourselves or does it make us intelligent in some way?
How can one take lessons from a story that was made up and characters that do not exist?

Is reading novels just a waste of time? a sort of video game for those who like to read?


Topics: books

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • May 8 2013: I can't resist the implication that the two, that is, facts/knowledge--learning--to widen our perspective, are mutually exclusive. How could they be? All stories, novels, have themes. I'm sure, well, at least I hope, this wasn't the intended meaning because you can see that it is a bit ridiculous. Because I couldn't resist, why do you ask this question? What lead you here? At the risk of being wrong, my gut feeling is that that is the more interesting discussion!

    More to the point, nothing is a waste of time, I think if you really put thought to what that statement is, you'll find that it's meant in production terms. You should be working! You should be doing something productive! Is your cognitive well being not of the utmost importance? As Americans, you know, we see this a lot, and I feel a bit enlightened by you that perhaps you folks feel some of the same pressure. I suppose though, that's only for me to take away :D
    • thumb
      May 8 2013: Hey Matt, I'm not sure I got your first point I'd be grateful if you could explain it :)

      The topic of discussion Matt is whether novels truly are a positive impact on our cognitive well being. And more importantly "in what way?"
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      • May 8 2013: Sure, sure, no worries, you seem to suggest that reading a novel doesn't apply facts or knowledge. Or that the two are wholly separate. In all three cases, you're learning, take the story of the celebrated Ahmad ibn Fadlan. Popularized by Crichton's book and the adaptation, the 13th Warrior. It's unquestioningly a novel, as a lot had to be invented or reasoned into it to create a story. You learn great lessons about people as a species, and you're wildly entertained. At least, I was.

        Also at the risk of being offensive, if so, forgive me, but I think these are some of the better examples, take the Bible and the Qur'an. The stories in it are allegorical, mythic, symbolic and most are quite simply made up. The themes they present are still worth learning, people still cling to them, for whatever reason. Just as, ugh, Twilight, I'm sure provides some insight to sheltered teenage girls for its' themes, beyond mere entertainment. Personally, I have never read a novel that did not have me thinking, indeed this is my favorite part about reading, it fosters an environment where I question ideas or branch on theirs. Just as someone said, you can pause and reflect while reading, this is one avenue of tremendous intelligent discussion, albeit, with yourself!

        I'm still curious though, why do you ask this question? What lead you here? Thanks all the same my friend!
        • thumb
          May 9 2013: Thanks for writing back Matt!
          I write this question because I was curious. We spend much time reading novels and I wondered what if there's a way to get more benefits out of it. Is there a way we can reflect on novels to get a maximized outcome (I'm an engineering student, forgive my quantitative terms!)

          As for your point, your thoughts are close to the ones expressed here, that whether it's fiction or not, novels make values and life lessons closer to human understanding when they're put in a frame of a story.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.