People used to think reading novels was a waste of time.  Many people still think that, but today video games and smartphones are the poster children for how to waste your time and rot your brain.

When people say they learn a lot from books, they’re usually talking about nonfiction.  These are often serious books with a capital “S.”  Thick biographies of dead presidents or the raft of time management, diet, and self-help books out there.

I’ve got nothing against these books.  I’ve read plenty of them myself.

But I’m talking about what you learn from novels.  And I don’t mean vague, high school English class stuff like empathy, critical thinking, and language. 

Let’s get practical here.

I’ve learned from novels that any good homicide detective or private investigator drinks their coffee black.  It’s a matter of toughness.  In fact, if you ever need to hire a PI to track down your cheating spouse, run the other way if they are soft enough to add cream or sugar to their coffee.

I starting rowing because of Tess Monaghan, the report-turned-private investigator in Laura Lippman’s long-running series.  In the first novel, Tess gets up early every morning and rows alone down the Patapsco river.  While good rowing is a beautiful sight, Tess described herself as moving up the river like a sprawled out beetle.

I didn’t think I could row with grace and efficiency.  But I figured I could row like a beetle.

It goes without saying that Tess Monaghan drinks her coffee black.

Speaking of coffee, the main character in Marisa de los Santos’ novel The Precious One drinks her coffee in the shower.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

I don’t know anyone who does this in real life but I decided to try it.  I set my coffee on the top of the toilet tank just outside the shower.  After I’d shampooed my hair, I reached out from the behind the shower curtain, brought the mug in and took a sip.

Trust me, there is nothing more luxurious than drinking hot coffee with hot water running down your back.  Kings and queens and movie stars and even Beyonce never had it as good as I do every morning drinking coffee in the shower.

Reader, try it tomorrow. Actually, try it now.  I’ll wait.

I learned about the epic British victory at Dunkirk not from a textbook, but in Suzanne’s Brockmann’s deliciously sexy romantic suspense novels featuring Navy seals.

This is the opposite of homework.

So put down the latest diet book and pick up a novel.  You might learn something as wonderful as drinking coffee in the shower.

Even if, like me, you still can’t bear to drink it black.