Lately, I've been asking myself a question about books: does it need to mean something? Does a book need to have some sort of merit, a reason for being, or is it okay to simply tell a story?
What's It All Mean?
I feel that I've been on both sides of this argument. I believe that, for the most part, people read way too much meaning into books. Even having a certain book in one's possession may carry some sort of meaning. People have been killed, I'm talking about murdered, because of a book. That's taking it too far, and I often say that all books should simply be taken at face value. Quit looking for meaning, just enjoy the story.
But like I said, I've also been on the other side of it. I read a book once that completely drained my life force and love of reading. It was long, long, long, and did nothing but run me around in circles before it ended in exactly the same place it began, more or less. And that book was almost enough to make me declare that all books ought to be fraught with meaning. They should all be penned with a purpose. This will keep me from wasting my time on one that's pointless.
So when it comes to answering the title question, I'm torn. A book with meaning can be a dangerous thing (just look at how many wars the Bible has started). But a book with no meaning may feel boring, pointless...it may feel like a waste of time.
There is an answer. No, a book doesn't need to mean something. It's fine, more than fine, to simply tell a story. Tell the story of one amazing day. Tell the story of a lifetime. Tell the story of an historical moment. Unravel a mystery. Fall in love. Experience grief. Do whatever you want, but do it well. Because while a book doesn't need to have a meaning, it does need to have something.
It's not enough to write a book, and it's not even enough to tell a story. Make it worth my while. Make me feel something. Help me learn something. Give me something to do. If I can read your book and solve a murder, or discover what Paris looks like, or maybe cry for someone who is lost, then it's a good day.
Your book doesn't need to have a meaning...but it does need to give the readers something they can take away from it.