What do Novels Mean?

When I was a kid I read a lot (at least, that’s how I remember it). I loved the Famous Five; later I devoured Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and many less known fantasy series. But on the journey of growing up I lost the drive to read. I don’t know why or how. Looking back, it was presumably the natural limitation of time that struck and other hobbies that took over. I also never missed it consciously.

But lately, Mädchen Klitzeklein is pushing me to read again. I have the great advantage that she recommends me only those books that she seems fit and, thus, I feel obliged to pick up one of those books and start to turn the first page. As with movies, I specifically appreciate to not know anything about the content besides what the cover tells me. And then, I start to read; it takes a while to get used to a physical book after so many years; but it has its unique charm: no distractions, no home button to press, just the next page to turn. For some books I was hooked from the first page, in other books it took a while until I oriented myself and felt home in their unique world. And what I found should not surprise myself, as I already knew it as a kid: it can be an absolute joy to read – so why did I stop reading in the first place?

In my late teens, computer games replaced the story telling of books for me; and some games do it really, really well. Just to mention at least two, because they are very dear to my heart: There is for example Celeste, the heart-breaking story of Madeline, a girl plagued by depression and panic attacks who has the near-impossible goal of climbing a mountain. The game design is perfect as the player suffers and struggles together with the main character in this hard-core platformer. Very rarely have I been more engaged in reaching the end of a game. And then there is Ori, a visual master piece with a straight-forward but wonderfully told story about an orphaned child who saves the forest. These games have provoked strong emotions within me that felt real and unique as I find it rarely in stories. But with games, as with movies, your own imagination is never as provoked as when reading books. The words cannot stimulate your eyes and ears, and hence, what they create within your head is up to you and can become even stronger.

And here I sit and read, turn the page, and the next, and the next. First, it’s a small dip into another story, another century, another life. But with every page, I immerse myself more and more, get lost in the pages, dive deep into the narrative until the surroundings vanish and I participate, experience it myself to the fullest extent. I witness pleasure and delight, I undergo heartbreak and sadness, I live in another universe at another time, even if it’s only for 30 minutes.

What do novels mean? I have absolutely no idea, I just liked the title. But for me, they gave me a long forgotten glimpse into other worlds, into my own imagination, a reason to slow down, another perspective on life. Thank you for motivating me to take this journey, Mädchen Klitzeklein.

The last two books I read were Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I don’t think they are for everyone, but I can still wholeheartedly recommend them both.

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