Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Novel Escape

A world without novels would be like a world without music.

My love for novels began at age 13 or 14. Prior to discovering novels, my literature diet consisted mostly of books that were foisted on me by my school’s curriculum and teen fiction. I recall reading Danielle Steel’s Mirror Image and feeling I had been transported to another era. My reality became the world described in the novel, and I was so engrossed in that world that I’d skipped lunch and would have forgotten dinner had my stomach not rebelled. In an instant, I became a crazy Danielle Steel addict and sought to devour every novel of hers in sight.  

It’s been years since I read a Danielle Steel novel, and though I have long grown weary of her plots, there’s an admiration I have for her novels because they introduced me to different worlds and time periods, not to mention expanding my vocabulary. I also learned a few things about human relationships and appreciate the research that went into her novels with cultural or historical undertones. Furthermore, Danielle Steel inspired my search for other novelists.

“Reading is a poor man's way of travelling, not just around the world but into the minds of people.” 
― Anonymous
Photo: Shayera

With my fixation on Danielle Steel over, I set my sights on John Grisham. I suppose I gravitated towards him because he fed my dreams of becoming a lawyer. Through his books I lived the life several lawyers, and while TV provided a glamorized version of law as a profession, John Grisham offered a realistic picture of it. Consequently, it wasn’t long after reading his books that my aspiration to become a lawyer lost its shine; and to ascertain my obsession with the profession had been purged from my system, I opted for a management degree with the option of minoring in law. Now, I can confidently say I harbor no regrets over not becoming a lawyer, thanks in part to a steady diet of John Grisham novels.

Currently, I have gone cold turkey on prolific, bestselling novelists with the aim of focusing more on classic novels - some of them are difficult reads, but I’m happy to explore, learn and challenge myself. I have also started reading novels by up and coming African writers, which not only serve to educate and entertain, but act as mirrors to my own world, experiences and history.

I love novels for they hold a magical quality that movies don’t possess. Readers are given the carte blanche to run away with their imagination, which is why I don’t watch movie adaptations of books I wish to read because they’d warp or constrain my ability to interpret them to my choosing. I also love novels because they not only are the easiest, cheapest and safest means of travelling, but provide an interesting alternative to studying history and understanding the human mind. Novels are a sweet escape to distant lands and foreign cultures. They promote self-awareness, are silent conversationalists and patient teachers. In short, with novels, I indulge most of my interests and much more.