If you’re wondering why ‘Novel’ and ‘Book’ are used interchangeably, you’re not alone. The true meaning of these words changes in the process of using them interchangeably.
However, keep in mind that they are not the same, neither are they nearest in meaning to each other.
Let’s see their true definition and differences as we move on.
What Is A Novel?
The term “novel” is from a Latin word, ‘novella.’ It stands for ‘new things.” People used it in the English language for the first time in the 1560s.
A novel is a creative fictional write-up written to captivate and entertain a reader using several common and poetic skills. It is a book written in a fictional and narrative form for the reader’s enjoyment.
The reason for writing a novel is to tell a story the way the writer chooses. The story focuses on a particular theme, a plot, and characters that depict the personal, political, and social realities of a people, place, society, or generation. A book, however, would not necessarily be a story but a fusion of other works of literature.
You write a novel to create a long but intimate and enjoyable reading experience for the readers. It usually exceeds 40,000-word counts. It provides an emotional reading experience for the readers with love, romance, suspense, and justice as the common subject.
The writer of a novel is a novelist.
What Is A Book?
Now that you know what a novel is let us take a look at a book’s definition. The word ‘book’ came from the word ‘box,’ whose Germanic root is ‘bok.’ The name ‘bok’ associates with ‘beech,’ which is a kind of wood. The word ‘book’ also originated from the word “codex” in Latin. It means ‘block of wood.’
Based on this topic’s context, I won’t be explaining a book in terms of pieces of paper or leather (in ancient times) bound together to write on. A book refers to any written (soft copy or printed) work of literature on a particular subject matter. It is a compilation of written meaningful words on the basic concepts in focus or of a specific subject.
You write books to expand the knowledge of the readers on a specific subject. They could be works of fiction, non-fiction, or even a combination of both. Fictional books describe and tell narratives aimed at imaginary scenes and characters. However, non-fictional books are those containing educational, theoretical, and factual research. It is safe to say that ‘all novels are books but not all books are novels.’ A novel is a form of a book- a fictional book.
Those who write books are called ‘authors,’ or only ‘writers.’ Writers discuss the basics of the subject matter and explain the principles involving the basics to enhance the reader’s knowledge, either directly or indirectly. A writer may use texts, images, graphs, and charts to enhance the reader’s understanding.
You should bear in mind that a book is not limited to only printed materials. A book can also mean an ‘e-book,’ especially in this modern age. It allows for documents to be made portable and easy to access anytime in formats like EPUB and PDF.
Differences Between Novels And Books
It is a fact that novels and books are both written and printed materials of information. The information may be creative, entertaining, or educative, which serve several purposes.
Novels and books differ in terms of purpose. A novel is written mainly for entertainment and expression of the writer’s point of view, while a book introduces and explains the subject matter. A novel tells stories, but a book is to describe a subject matter. Examples of novels are Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Little women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, etc. Examples of books are Robert Greene’s book ‘The 48 Laws of Power,’ Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, The Power of Critical Theory by Stephen D. Brookfield, etc.
A novel is a book of a story that is not less than 40,000 words. Books of stories less than this word count are not novel. Books, however, are written on a subject without any specific minimum word count to be used.
Novels are a subset of Books
Books can be any write-up ranging from stories to workbooks, from poetry to journals, etc. A novel, on the other hand, contains nothing more than stories.
The pages of a book can contain non-fictional or fictional contents. A novel, however, is usually a fictional work of literature giving the details of a story. It describes the characters, the actions, the location, the obstacles, and achievements or failures of the characters. Although sometimes novels could be non-fictional, autobiographies fall in this category. Autobiographies (or memoir) are real-life stories of the author, narrating their personal life experiences. An example of such is Barrack Obama’s Dreams from my Father.
Books have been in existence from the very beginning. The ancient scrolls that make up the Bible, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, and Qur’an are all books. Novels’ existence as books started in the 9th century with works like Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu in 1010 and The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe published in the 16th century. However, people wrote some novels earlier than the 7th century. They do not have all the characteristics of a novel that we know today. An example of such precursors to the modern novel is Dasakumaracarita by Dandin. Even at that, novels are newer than books.
Books for Information/ Entertainment
Books are mostly for information, while novels are for entertainment. You don’t expect to read a textbook and find thrills, romance, and fantasy therein.
Books that aren’t novels (apart from Poetry) are void of emotions. Books are structured to have an expository nature to advance the learning of the reader. Novelists use certain structural features like character formation and development, theme, setting, and plot to compel the reader to read and continue reading. They stir up emotional responses from the reader.
Classification Of Novels
- Classic novels. These are novels that are considered a model example of what a novel should be. They have stood the test of time and still regarded as well written till now. Examples are Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, etc.
- Romance Novels. They follow the classic form. Also, they contain romantic and flowery descriptions of love and romance. Examples are; The Kiss by Danielle Steel, The Second Chance by Ellen Wolf, etc.
- Mystery and Thriller novels. These novels intend to build suspense in the reader. They contain mysteries to solve with clues given throughout the book. Examples include: Sue Grafton’s V is for Vengeance, Miles Corwin’s Kind of Blue, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.
- Horror Novels. These intend to provoke fear in the reader. They contain gruesome and mysterious happenings. Examples are The Final Winter by lain Rob Wright, The Devil Tree by Steve Vernon, The Sentinel by Jeremy Bishop, etc.
- Legal Thriller. They contain justice and law stories. It is a subset of Mystery and Thriller Novels. Also, they give an insight into the Justice System and the Law. Examples are The Firm, The Rainmaker, A time to Kill, etc., all written by John Grisham.
Classification Of Books
There are several classifications of books, but I will highlight some here according to the Dewey Decimal Classifications:
- Generalities. Speaks on Unexplained subjects (e.g., UFO, aliens, etc.), World records, Libraries, Museums, Bibliographies, the Internet, etc.
- Philosophy and Psychology. It speaks of Ghosts, Witches, Feelings, Ethics, Values, Dreams, Death and Dying, etc.
- Religion. It speaks on World religion, Bible stories, History of Christianity. Philosophy of religion etc.
- Social Sciences. It focuses on Statistics, Political science, economics, Law, Money, and Government, etc.
- Languages. It focuses on Grammar, Linguistics, Dictionaries, English, French, Spanish, German, Latin, Italian, etc.
- Science and Math. Majors on Math, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Weather, Fossils, Oceans, Planets, etc.
- Applied Science and Technology. Here we have Inventions, the Human body, Health, Medicine, Pets, Food, etc.
- Arts and Recreation. It speaks on Crafts, Drawing, Music, Sports, fishing, Hunting, etc.
- Literature. Majors on Poetry, Writing, Shakespeare, Plays, Foreign literature, etc.
- Geography and History. It includes Geography, Travel, Maps, Archeology, Flags, States, World wars, etc.
Now that you know the noticeable differences between a novel and a book, we can conclude that any piece of written work on a subject, e.g., Cells and Tissues or The Science of Medicine, is always a book and never a novel. Thus, all published novels are books, but not all books are novels.
It goes to show that the book is a broader spectrum of written materials. In comparison, the novel is only a narrower portion of books.