All novels are books, but all books are not novels—as clichéd as it may sound, this statement holds water.
A novel usually comes in the form of long narrative fiction. A book can come in any form, including narrative fiction. In other words, books are the main heading under which the sub-heading ‘novels’ is usually placed. It can be said that a book is a collection of words, organized in a particular manner, depending on its intent and raison d’etre. A novel, too, is a collection of words, strung together to serve an aesthetic/romantic purpose.
A book could be anything-a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a guide, a pictorial biography, a collection of poetic verses, the list goes on and on. Whereas a novel is a type of a book. It is usually written in the form of a prose, but can be written in the form of a verse too. While writing a novel, the writer has plenty of room to improvise. He or she is free to use his/her imagination and come up with either entertaining, or comical, or fantastical stories.
A novel writer could also base his or her story on a real life incident, but at the end of the day, a novel will generally be fictionalized. The pre-requisite for writing a novel is creativity. Only a person with a wild imagination or a penchant for adventure and risks can write trail-blazing novels.
On the other hand, the world of books is way more extensive than the world of novels. People from all walks of life can write a book, condition being that they are literate enough to do so.
Books are written on a wide variety of subjects. Whereas novels are written as stories with fictional characters, plot conflicts, etc. Further, novels tend to be more personalized than other forms of books; sentiments, feelings, life struggles, grey areas, etc. are common fixtures of novels.
The purpose of novels, too, differs from that of books in general. Novels usually seek to provide a break from the hard realities of life, though some novels do talk about real-life experiences. In opposition to this, books are written for multiple reasons, such as to inform, to add to someone’s knowledge base, to propel someone into action, to help someone in his or her career, to debunk myths, to enable discussions, etc.
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Novels are more aesthetically advanced than other kinds of books. Through his or her novel, the writer aims to take the reader on a journey-and this journey takes place in the writer’s mind. There are no set standards for writing a novel—it can be designed in any manner depending on what the writer prefers. Some writers like to base their novels on real life experience, some like to create highly fantastical worlds, such as those found in books like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Eragon, etc., and yet some like to write highly descriptive novels packed with scenic, or character-based, or events centric elaborations.
It must, however, be noted that a novel defies a fixed definition. The term novel cannot be boxed into a particular category. This owes itself to the fact that there are plenty of ways of constructing a novel. Virginia Woolf described a novel as ‘this most pliable of all forms.’ Additionally, a novel is the most prominent and widely-read literary genre out of all the literary genres out there. It takes precedence over all other literature forms.
It is hard to trace the origins of the novel; nevertheless, it is believed in the literary circles that the first novel was written in either the twelfth or the thirteenth century.
However, with the advent of technology, the traditional definitions of both a book and a novel have experienced significant changes. A book can no longer be simply referred to as something bound and held by a human hand—the same goes for a novel.
The scope of the novel as a genre is narrower than the scope of the book as a medium, as a book is a medium of communication, whereas a novel is a medium within this vast medium. Sometimes it happens the words books and novels are used interchangeably. But one has to be careful, as it is okay to call a novel a book, because all books are essentially novels. However, call something a novel when it is some other kind of book is incorrect, to say the least.
Over the passage of time the concept of a novel has evolved. Previously a novel was considered to be nothing but romance. And though even today it has to do with romance, a novel has much more to offer than mere romance. The novel of today can cover a wide variety of topics from myths to histories to tragedies to comedies to horror stories. You name it and chances are that there is some novel out there which has it.
When it comes to novels, the clash between romance and realism is an on-going one. While some novels are resisting the onslaught of realism, others have reluctantly embraced it by incorporating elements of both realism and romance within their folds.
Novels usually revolve around or stem from intimate experiences. Moreover, they are an expression of our freedom. In all forms of book it is either knowledge or information that is being shared, but it is particularly in a novel that breath-taking creativity and the reaches of the human mind are witnessed.
Novels are usually associated with the emergence of the middle class in the annals of history. As life on planet earth became more complex and multi-faceted so did the novel. From Hardy to Wallace, the genre of novel has not just pushed the envelope, but has, in fact, torn it apart.
All books are not exciting or fun to read, but novels are usually exciting and fun to read. People are usually obliged to buy books in order to further their academic, professional or career-related goals. Whereas novels are more often than not purchased or read as a hobby; people with an interest in the world of fantasy and fiction go all out to find novels which can give them a break from the mostly information-laden or factual data that they come across on a daily basis.
Also, it is the online world which poses a threat to the world of physical books. However, the book is not dead yet, and will take quite some time to die. The hard form of the book is still popular in many circles, especially the old-school literary ones. It remains to be seen how the world of digital books will affect the world of traditional books.
So whether it is a novel or a book in its other forms that one is reading, one should realize that every written piece has its own unique style and voice. Thus, generalizations with regard to either could be misleading. Since the invention of the printing press-or lets go even further into the past-since human beings realized that experiences and information could be recorded and stored, there has always been a book and perhaps even a novel. In the present technological era it is impossible to have an immutable definition of the terms novel and book.
Therefore, just read books and read books which are novels, and be assured that one way or another you will learn something.