Introduction: How to Read Novels to Get Ideas
How to read novels to get ideas? you ask! Mortimer Adler in his excellent book, How to Read a Book, says there are three reasons for reading: For entertainment, information, and for the sake of understanding. However, I have found that for me, it is very difficult to separate the three into silos. Whenever I read for pleasure, I am always looking for lessons and that “one” great idea. Let me tell you how to read novels to get ideas, I do it all the time.
You can get ideas from novels, if you hold it in the back of your mind that you are also looking for information, or to even for the sake of understanding. I read constantly, and I read from different genres. And I really love a good book.
UPDATE: This post was first written in 2012.
The Process: How to Read Novels to Get Ideas
When reading novels, make sure that some of them include characters that do what you do for a living. This increases the probability that you will get some ideas that will work for you. And it helps if the author writes well. While reading those books, look for:
- Ways to become irreplaceable in your job.
- Ideas to update your skills.
- Ways to get ahead of the crowd.
One great idea can make all the difference in your career. It can transform your life. Authors who write well, conduct a lot of research before they write a word. This allows them to become very knowledgeable about the topic that the book deals with.
So how does this work?
I came across Violet Miracle by Christina Li, which was a free e-book for the Kindle. The story sounded interesting, so I downloaded and read it. The main character is Violet Carsten, a writer who earns $1,000 from her Kindle books each month.
There’s nothing novel about that because most of us know Amazon makes it very easy for anyone to upload content to sell for the Kindle. Where it gets interesting, is when Violet mentions to a friend that her Aunty Mabel recommended that she also upload her digital content to TeachOutLoud, which allows her to create an audio of her books.
I have never heard of TeachOutLoud, so that was new and useful information for me. What I thought was even more interesting, is conducting interviews with her characters as blog posts. I do not write fiction, but I can see how fiction writers would find this information useful.
Violet also mentions Smashwords, which I already knew about. The resources she mentions, which aids the way she does her work is seamless in the story. I am reading for entertainment, yet I am learning about tools that I can use.
What I also plan to do, is read other novels where the main character are writers, but the twist is the books have to be written at least 50 years ago. I want to discover old ideas that are transportable to today. If you work in a field that did not exist 50 years ago, such as cyber-security, re-frame what you do.
If you stripped away the technology aspect of the job, what do you have left? What kinds of people looked for clues to solve a crime? Over 50 years ago, what kinds of people did sleuthing and investigative work? Read a novel with those kinds of characters. In this example – Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Cherry Ames, Jane Marple, Nancy Drew…. How did they perform their jobs? Is there something they did that you could add technology to, to give you an edge? Is there a process they used which would work today?
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, Revised EditionHow to Read Poetry Like a Professor: A Quippy and Sonorous Guide to VerseHow to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form
Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, so reading science fiction is also a great way to get ideas that you can use. Sci-fi forces you to think about possibilities. It helps you to get your creative juices flowing. Recently, I read Game Changer, where the author wrote about Matrix Learning. I thought it was pure science fiction, only to learn that it may one day be a reality.
Have you read?
Conclusion: How to Read Novels to Get Ideas
We are living in a very competitive environment. However, we do not have to worry about competing if we know how to create. One way to do that is to search contemporary and older books to find that one idea. Then find a way to bridge the gap between an old and new idea.
Books to Consider Reading if You Want to Learn How to Problem Solve
A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot Mysteries), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot)
Too Many Cooks (Nero Wolfe Mysteries), Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe)
Murder She Said, Agatha Christie (Jane Marple)
Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse, Helen Wells (Cherry Ames)
The Secret of the Old Clock: 80th Anniversary Limited Edition (Nancy Drew), Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)
Science Fiction Books to Read