Novels--a waste of time?Is reading novels a waste of time? Can you give your opinions, please?

Expert Answers
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reading novels is as important as it has ever been. Since we live in the age of sound bites and 24-hour news channels, people are reading newspapers less and there is an increasing urge to find news and knowledge in general as quickly as possible. There is nothing inherently wrong in seeking information quickly, but it establishes a pattern of short attention spans and skimming more than reading. Reading a novel requires time, patience, imagination, and usually, reflection. I would argue that reading novels (and other longer forms of texts - even newspapers) is vital because it impels people to contextualize information and relate that information to other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, etc. 

Reading extensive works (i.e. novels) will boost your vocabulary much more efficiently than if you were to sit and memorize words and their definitions because in reading, you are putting that knowledge (of learning new words) into practice. Although articles and coursebooks help, learning new concepts in the contexts of novels is more efficient than learning bits of information here and there. 

There are benefits to reading textbooks or coursebooks but a coursebook on literature is not the same as reading literature. For example, reading a coursebook on music is not the same as listening to that music. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is a quote pertinent to this interesting discussion:

Ours is a world in which knowledge accumulates and wisdom decays. Inevitably so; for advancing science and technology require the services of specialists, to each of whom is assigned the job (and it is a whole-time, a more than whole-time job) of mastering the intricacies of his particular field and keeping up with the changes in theory and practice brought about by scientific discovery and technical invention. That such specialists may and often do become highly trained barbarians has been, for some years past, the growing concern of educators.--Aldous Huxley

Good novels are a part of culture, and culture is essential to civilization. Any educated person should know something about literature, good music, art, good drama, even poetry, in order to avoid being a "highly trained barbarian." Otherwise there is a serious danger of ours becoming a "Brave New World."

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, do not think that reading novels is a waste of time. Personally, I have sen how reading can improve a person's vocabulary. Both of my children read far beyond their grade level and have a vocabulary which impresses even me. That said, reading also offers an escape from life. They can allow readers to go on historical adventures, visit space, and venture into the mystical and supernatural.

Novels also allow readers to use their imaginations--through readers creating mental images of the characters and settings defined within the novel. Also, novels can allow readers to expand their own limitations, ideologies, and morality.

msmcgarron eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The number one way for students of any subject to improve their literacy (a complex and important thing) is to READ. The more you read, the better your literacy will become. So it doesn't matter what the topic is or whether it relates to your homework. Whatever you read will increase your skills in reading, writing, speaking, critical analysis; skills which are important for your entire education. So no, novels are by no means a waste of time. Even if you like to read bad novels, it will still contribute to your confidence with language. But obviously aim to read the good'uns!

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think it is a waste of time to read.  Reading "great literature" novels can be important to you because it can help cause you to think about issues faced by individuals and societies.  But even if you read novels that are just for fun it can be good for you.  It can stimulate your imagination.  It can help you to use language better because you will be exposed to different styles of writing.  I don't think reading is ever a waste of time.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Novels are not a waste of time in my opinion. Reading a novel is as useful and fulfilling as having a conversation, studying history, or spending time contemplating new ideas.

In fact, that is what reading a novel is, in a way. Reading is a conversation, a contemplation of ideas, and can be a means of learning about cultures, people and places that we were once not informed of. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reading novels, particularly well-written ones, is an extremely worthy pastime.  Certainly, through a well-chosen novel, the reader can learn and explore new ideas, cultures, philosphies, or settings.  If anything else, reading a novel builds vocabulary and stimulates activity and the growth of dendrites in the brain.

jerichorayel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wasting time is anything that cannot make you in anyway productive. Anything you do that prevents you from doing things that you ought to do can produce a wasted time. So if you read novels and get addicted to it, thus neglecting your other duties as an individual, can definitely waste your time.


William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In reply to #50, would you consider watching movies and watching television a waste of time? Do you watch sports on TV? Are you following the NFL playoffs on TV? Seen any good movies lately? Do you listen to any music?

astrosonuthird | Student

"Into the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman"

"Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking"

"Stephen Hawking and the Grand Design Part -1,2"

"How its made"


And many more shows

nicoledesilva | Student
I don't think reading novels is a waste of time. For some people, characters are their first friends and become their best friends. The world the characters live in becomes yours. Books help you imagine and well...... I don't really know.... but I love books, so yeah. :)
mafi010 | Student

it is a waste of time for the illeterate

astrosonuthird | Student

in reply to #56!

Watching TV is fun especially "Man vs Wild" and Astrophysics shows!

francy17 | Student

No not at all! Is watching TV a waste of time? Some would say yes but it is simply a form of entertainment as novels are. Novels also provide a source of enlightenment as you read. You gain insight on different subjects. We find our education in novels and paths into the psyche of the mind of different authors and our own. An adventure begins every time a book is opened. I don't read a ton but when I do I thoroughly enjoy it.

jleslie08 | Student

Reading opens so very many doors for you. Novels provide knowledge, pleasure, even escape for those whose minds need a break. I tell my students constantly that the most important thing to keep in mind is to choose a book that interests you as a person. Reading can be enjoyable as long as you are reading material that touches you on some level. As a teacher, I find reading to be a doorway leading to me to different avenues of thought. There are huge numbers of messages waiting to be found and explored. In order to become a well-rounded individual who is capable of more than pure intellectual thought, reading is essential. Yes, textbooks are important, but they expand your mind only so far.

sesh | Student

well #16

brain is llike an empty  pot which may take good things but it will obviously take a lot of bad and dirty things 


It will take, but It does not mean you should absorb and pursue that. It's just knowledge.. You need not to put those into action. :)

sesh | Student

In reply to #15:Suicide? Mmm.. It should not be the negative acts in the books that we should add into our lives. In my case I won't feel like suiciding even a character spotted with white light does so. Again it depends on the way you take it. It can affect you, but it can't drag u or make you the opposite you are now, what must be added to the life is the lesson or the moral not the negative things, bullbudder

suzannah304 | Student

Thanks for your opinions and i too think that reading novels is not a waste of time. But some of my elders think that reading novels diverts one's mind from studies. They say there are lots of coursebooks and it's better to read them than novels.I even had my novel snatched and thrown. Do novels divert one's mind?

thewanderlust878 | Student

I wholeheartedly disagree that novels are a waste of time. Novels are fantastic for many reasons. They open up so many gateways to different parts of the world. You could be transported to 19th century England, or to India, or 16th century France. You have so many different options; the possibilities are literally endless. You can escape the harsh reality of the real world for a while, all while expanding your vocabulary, increasing your reading skills, and even sharpening your mind. 

On the subject of the mind, novels also are a great way to learn things. And you can literally learn almost anything from a novel. How to build a spaceship, how NOT to act in high school, or you could even learn how to speak Elvish (I'm looking at you, Tolkien). As you can see, novels are absolutely not a waste of time but in fact a great way to spend time. 

Hope this helps!

nishu2766 | Student

useful - as entertainment, as escapism, and to teach you how other people look at the world and feel things (also intensely useful as a young teen to help learn other modes of social behaviour than your parents example, and to expand vocab a lot).

nishu2766 | Student

very useful! sometimes, it's nice to just escape into a world you can create while you paint the words onto the easel of your mind. books make you reflect on your life, on your hopes and dreams; they tap into your deepest emotions and as anadded bonus, they make you a better reader and enhace your vocabulary. grab a book, find a cozy place to read, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon!

useful - as entertainment, as escapism, and to teach you how other people look at the world and feel things (also intensely useful as a young teen to help learn other modes of social behaviour than your parents example, and to expand vocab a lot).

melissa1106 | Student

I do not believe reading novels is a waste of time. You can learn valuable  lessons from many classic and modern novels. You can also expand your vocabulary by reading and learn about things you may previously have not known about.  It may be a waste of time if you read a novel you know will not interest you  but if you have a good perspective it will not be a waste.

astrosonuthird | Student

no! watching meaningfull show is not a waste of time!

oliviaharbor | Student

Well people vary and has it's own  point of views on things but me, since I'm a book lover, reading novel is not a waste of time at all. I am  fan of classic novel and always find a time to read despite of being busy researching and on photography. I believed we learn a different kind of thing on novels, well depends on the content.

diali | Student

i dont think so novels are a waste of time but thay do improve your knowledeg about worldly affairs, public and individualistic thoughts and also improve your language for communication or even some sort of writings..

astrosonuthird | Student

Yeah! You can say that novels are really a waste of time.


But we can read it for entetainment and for fun.


The stories Bible are quite interesting.

user5607583 | Student

I do not think that novels are waste of time. It sure is more enjoyable for people who like to read but still, you can gain a different perspective while reading. It makes people ask themselves "what would have I done if it were me?" And no arguement that it enhances imagination. 

hadawy | Student

It isn't a waste of time at all I think it is very important

swaggartp | Student

Not at all, novels are there to sort of exercise our brains, feeding our brains with more knowledge.

 I used to really dislike reading novels, especially the book that we are given to 'must read' in school, but when I trainned myself, like you would when you are about to run a race or exercise, I get a book and by the time I am in the 2nd chapter, somehow it grabs my attention and I read on, that shows that my brain is sort of accepting the concept that I want it to be fed ( i hope you understand)

novels are kinda growing on me gradually.

sesh | Student

Yes.. I'll be thinking about the interesting things in the book but all the time? No, it won't happen to me. I do agree I'll be living with that for a moment, but it wo't divert ny mind from studies. actually such an interesting book will be read repeatedly, yet, it won't divert my mind from studies completely. And, if happens, it will haunt in mind just after reading or for a small time, but i don't think it will civert mind like you day bullbudder..

sesh | Student

Yeah that's right, but who will think about that book for days and nights? even if its that much interesting? You should have a balance in mind.

But it doen't mean you have to stay away from reading. Even the reader think about the story, just after reading, I believe no one will stop his/her all work and keep imagining those scenes in the book.. 

Reading will add something to you, and that added thing will come out in need, if someone thinks it diverts the mind from studies, better stop reading!! :D


sesh | Student

So you think novels divert your mind for bad mainly? Mmm.. I think it depends according to the person. Again, according to the way you take things in!!

I didn't mean being unusual, i just meant newness and experimenting..

sesh | Student

I do know that good moral should be added butttt

it doesnot happen everytime 

then why many youths smoke or do drugs

do you have any answer sesh???

Well.. I was talking about what books are for.. Don't you realize that's something else, bullbudder? Youth wants novelty, and new experiments, experiences. It's an addiction right? So I don't think any writer would force the reader for bad habbits. but if someone does those things, it's not because of the book or his surrounding, but because of the way he takes things in, else because of his own need. 

sesh | Student

to #12

as u suggested sesh 

reading adds to your life and what is it that is being added arithmetically to ur life(ie to ur brain) well like whatever u said by reading novels u can go to see 1 characters experience but it does divert ur mind either it is bad or else

Well.. The thing u read direcly affects your mind, it's true. But It does not mean it diverts your mind from studies. It depends on the way you take it to your brain.


suzannah304 | Student

Thanks to all of you for your valuable posts...

sesh | Student

I too am of the opinion that reading novels is not a waste of time. It can't divert your mind from studies. The people who says it does might be referring to badly written novels. Still, I believe whatever you read, even if it's tabloid articles, they have something to add to your life. Reading any novel is like experiencing another's life and you will be able to understand more about that character's experiences no matter what type of a novel it is.

suzannah304 | Student

in reply to #7, I don't think that you are a good reader by what you have said above. Novels are your second world; if not yours, at least they're mine. I never think of novels as being useless. They give you so much: knowledge, thinking ability, creativity, ...

You mentioned that you have read 'the Alchemist' which is such a good book and I think that you haven't learnt anything by reading it. Or else you should have been eager to read more novels...

unspeakable49 | Student

Reading can never be a waste of time because it has effects on us in multiple ways. From improving our vocabulary, to making us more empathetic, reading is essential. The reason it has so many benefits is because it is one of the most neurologically demanding actions. There are multiple processes taking place, and because of that it affects us psychologically and physiologically.

I recently did an extensive project on reading and empathy - how reading increases empathy. You can contact me if you want further information. :)

user804180 | Student

Sumtyms elders do think that reading novels is a waste of tym..cuz they c tht v the youngsters spend more tym readin novels thn the tym spent wid our coursebooks

Therefore readin novels isnt a problem but the time u spent on it is a matter of concern If u r jus readin novels n ignorein ua studies thn it is a prob..:)

popan006 | Student

Improves your vocabulary for writing essays etc.

sesh | Student

*but i don't think it will divert mind like you say bullbudder..

sesh | Student

I dont I AM NOT TELLING THAT WE  should not take risks but that risk with just a book seems as is we are trying to kill a mocking bird

A person should be able to take risks and to filter good from bad.. Anyone can't stay away from world! B)