Turn on the TV, peruse a newspaper, and all you see is doom and gloom. Rising unemployment, falling stocks, crime, war, and disease. But read a romance novel and the protagonist lives happily ever after (or at least happily for now). Pick up a mystery novel and the bad guys get punished. Everything turns out the way it should.
That’s why, despite a dismal economy and declining book sales nationwide, “genre” books––especially romances and mysteries––continue to hold their own in the marketplace. Fantasy and sci-fi are doing okay, too. The truth is, we’re looking for an escape. We want to get away from the frustrations, the drudgery, and the uncertainty of our everyday lives. In a recent interview about her new book The Story Sisters, bestselling author Alice Hoffman says she began “reading to escape reality; now I’m writing to escape reality.”
We writers are charged with an awesome responsibility: to entertain our readers. Especially during these trying times, it’s our job to whisk readers away on a magic carpet ride to a place where dreams come true. To give you a thrill, to make you laugh, to help you forget (for a little while at least) the unpaid bills, the unappreciative boss, or the inattentive spouse.
Recently I read that movie attendance goes up during a bad economy because movies provide inexpensive entertainment and escape. If you do a cost-per-hour analysis, however, books offer one of the highest entertainment values around. An e-book that will keep you enthralled for several evenings costs about the same as a cup of fancy coffee at Starbucks or a large box of movie popcorn (and no calories).
I’m going out on a limb now, but I believe that reading “feel-good” books can actually make the world a better place. There’s a lot of talk among motivational speakers these days about how our thinking influences our realities. The more we focus on positive things, they say, the more positive things will come our way. Like attracts like. If they’re right, the first step toward a happier life is thinking happier thoughts. So instead of watching the news on TV, I’m going to read a book that puts a smile on my face. Maybe it really is that simple.
Here’s to happy endings!