Entertainment: What other medium can pull you into its world like a good book? You can visit places you’ve been or places you’ve never seen, real or imagined. You can identify with characters and experience what they are experiencing, feel what they are feeling. You can join in an adventure, fall in love, laugh, cry, try to solve a mystery, feel fear, and maybe learn something new.
Education: Even though fiction authors are free to make up a story, the best ones research what they are writing about and venture into real subjects. I often find myself doing my own research after reading a book that talks about a subject that interests me, digging in to learn more or to check to see how much is fact. A good example is the John Grisham novel, The Rooster Bar, which I’m currently reading. It talks about bank fraud, college loans, law school scams, immigrant problems, suicide…and I’m only halfway through.
Imagination: The best books stimulate my imagination, stir my creative juices, piqué my curiosity. None of this is so readily available in a movie or even a game, which paint the pictures for you and don’t allow your brain to create its own images. Hard science fiction is the best genre for my mind. It takes current science and technology and stretches them to future possibilities. In many cases, it takes us to other worlds. Exciting, interesting, and educational.
Solving puzzles: Mysteries and thrillers are all about solving puzzles. Can you figure out “Who dun it?” before the book tells you? Can you find a way for the protagonist to escape in a good thriller?
I try to incorporate some or all the above in my writing. I wrote my first novel, The Janus Code, as science fiction, but by the time I published it, the real world had caught up. I hope it included all the reasons for reading. The second book I published, Mangrove Madness, is a mystery—entertainment and a puzzle to solve.
Go grab a good novel and enjoy the mind trip!