Monday, August 2, 2010

Where Do You Start When Your Have NEVER Read a Book?

Obviously, we're all readers. We wouldn't be on the internet writing and reading about books if we weren't.

I'm sure we all know people who aren't readers. No matter your method of persuasion, this usually can't be changed. Some people just don't get our love of books. I can accept that. I don't get some people's love of exercise.

Now, imagine this hypothetical situation. You have a friend who has NEVER read a book. They are completely literate, but somehow even avoided reading those required books in school. Fiction/non-fiction, all the genres - has never even attempted to read one word.

BUT - they want to. They want to become a reader, they just don't know where to start. Enter, you, the amazing, entertainment bringing friend. Because you are so fabulous and thoughtful, you've decided to help them collect a few books to try to see where their literary tastes lie.

Now, you can't just smother them with your likes. You need to give them a book or two from a variety of genres. They need to see what they like, but need your help navigating the millions of books out there.

I would suggest these books:

Middle Grade Books
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

YA Books
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Emma by Jane Austen
1984 by George Orwell

General Fiction
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens by Neil Gaiman
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Stand by Stephen King

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
1st to Die by James Patterson

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Dead Until Dark (Original MM Art) (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Science Fiction
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Given this hypothetical opportunity, what would you chose for them? Do you agree or disagree with my choices?


  1. How about some Humor or Memoirs...Better yet Humorous Memoirs! I love the Jen Lancaster books...definitely (if it was a girl) would add a few fun chick lit books in there! Great list though!!!!

  2. Generally depends what they like in general. I will recommend based off their preferences of movies and such.

  3. First I love that you chose Emma as the JA representation! Yay for Emma.

    Okay I'm done with that.

    You have a lot of good stuff here and I only had one "eh" thought coming and that was the length of some of the books. I think a non-reader might be intimidated by books like The Stand. And dude, seriously, don't get me wrong. It is epic and wonderful and one of my faves. But it is small print and LOOOONNNGG. Also, The Corrections, is a doozey.

    For Young Adult I would also include maybe some of Ellen Hopkins novels. They're told in verse, but still stunning and rich in plot. Heroin addict anyone?

    This is an interesting post though.

  4. Now that is something to think about Jennifer, great post, I may try to do this one also and link back to you.

    I agree with Notebook hands down and authors James Patterson and Stephen King.

    I would definitely include on of Lisa Schroever's Verse Novels also.

  5. Oh for mystery I would include a Mary Higgins Clark also.

    Christina, I haven't heard of Ellen Hopkins, thanks for that recommendation, I am now in love with Verse Novels, it is a treat.

  6. What about The Book Thief? It appeals to YA and adult lit lovers. It's got a girl protag but I think the story appeals to both genders. It's got history a little suspense. The narator, Death, is sweet. I think I'd recommend it to someone trying to bust into reading.

  7. I would probably recommend The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It's loved by both children and adults, and is a small book, so it's not overwhelming for some one who never read a book.

  8. Yay, Harry Potter and/or Roald Dahl would be great choices. Also the Hunger Games, they're really attention grabbing. For a lover of romance, I'd suggest Pride and Prejudice and/or Sense and Sensibility.

  9. I think this is a strong list! Great post!

  10. This is going to be long. I apologize.

    Personally, for the classics, I'd drop 1984. It's an important story, but to me it's a snooze to read. I'd be afraid that this nascent reading urge would be quashed by that novel! I think I'd replace it with Lord of the Flies.

    Hmmm. If I thought the reader would be receptive, I'd add Slaughterhouse Five to that list. It's an odd story, and Vonnegut takes some getting used to, but...yes.

    For science fiction, it would be based on my friend's other preferences. If they were the hard science, engineer type, I'd direct them more toward Asimov, Clarke, Herbert, and early Heinlein, particularly their short stories or shorter novels, so as not to overwhelm a new reader. Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain is a great read, too.

    For YA, Kristen Cashore's Graceling.

    Jules Verne for Middle Grades - I found his stories to be a blast when I was a younger reader. I think the Skuldruggery Pleasant books, too. MG mysteries! :)

    Non-fiction, I'd recommend anything written by Joseph Ellis or Susan Wise Bauer. They have a knack for making history accessible and interesting to the lay person.

    For horror, I'd pull from my Lovecraft collection. Most of his novels are short and just the right amount of horrifying. And King's The Shining.

    For general fiction, Dorothy Allison's Bastard of Carolina. A hard read, but so well done. For pure entertainment, Patterson, Grisham, et al.

    For straight up epic fantasy, I'd recommend The Dragonlance Chronicles, by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman. Shorter & easier to read than my other go-to, Tolkien. The Narnia series, too, is great fun fantasy.

    I agree 100% on Christie's And Then There Were None. Excellent, excellent. I'd also offer Caleb Carr's The Alienist. For "softer" mysteries, Rita Mae Brown and Lilian Jackson Braun are great fun.

  11. +JMJ+

    Hmmmm. I remember trying to cut my Horror teeth on The Stand and failing miserably. I don't know if I'd recommend such a big novel to a first-timer.

    On the Romance side, since I am a huge fan of Genre Romance, I'd pick a really good conventional novel. You know, one with the "HEA." ;-) It won't be as masterful as Gone with the Wind or have as much crossover appeal as The Notebook, but it will have the edge of having been written for the genre and the readers who love it. Maybe a good Lisa Kleypas or Mary Jo Putney novel.

    As for my other favourite genre, YA . . . I don't know. =S The books coming out these days are so far removed from the YA I grew up with (which was still pretty much under the same umbrella as MG); so I'm sure I'll come across as really "old school" when I name Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. (LOL!)

  12. Love your choices! Harry Potter, Brave New World, Uglies, And Then There Were None... if those books wouldn't get someone interested in reading, I don't know what will! Now, what would I recommend? Hmm...

  13. What an interesting topic...of course, the books suggested are going to vary from reader to reader. The ones you've chosen though seem like a fairly good mix.....though I'm not so certain on choosing a Stephen King novel as in "intro to reading choice"....his novels are somewhat of an acquired taste in my opinion. Thanks for the ideas though!

  14. @Tara - I have heard great things about the Jen Lancaster books.

    @Diana Dang - That's a good point.

    @christina - The Stand is huge, but a lot of teens cut their reading for pleasure teeth on Stephen King. I figure he must be doing something right. I personally loved The Stand, but maybe you're right and I should have gone with one of his (very few) shorter books.

    @Marce - Definitely. If you do a post, let me know and I'll link it here.

    @Chelle - I actually haven't read it, so I couldn't really judge, but it is popular.

    @Quigui - I haven't read that either. Loving the recommendations.

    @Alessandra - I had put Jane Austen in the classics because they are so much older than the rest of the list, but yes she would work in romance as well.

    @Miss Remmers - Thanks!

    @starshinedown - I didn't love Lord of the Flies, but I could see how that may work for some people better than 1984. And the only Vonnegut I could say I even liked a little would be Galapagos.

    Crichton would be a great choice for sci-fi. I forgot Jules Verve. I really enjoyed his books.I kind of disliked both Tolkien and the Narnia books. I will have to check out the rest of your suggestion. Lots that I haven't read.

    @Enbrethiliel - You have a point with the romance. I haven't read much pure romance, so I went with those that I read that I know to be popular. And old-school YA - I don't think I've ever read anything that classifies.

    @Emidy - Thanks!

    @GMR - Stephen King has a huge fan base and a lot of people start out on his books, even if they don't continue with him or the genre. The only other author I could come up with for horror was Bentley Little and while I love his work, he doesn't have the popular appeal of King.

  15. I like your list, and I've got to start reading those Uglies.

  16. Honestly it would really depend on my friend's personality and what sort of movies s/he gravitates towards. I do have a friend that brags she has never read a book in her life. If she were asking for recommendations, I would probably steer her towards something light and smutty.


  17. For general fiction I would replace The Lovely Bones with The Help by Kathryn Stockett. That is a great book and I am not a huge fan of The Lovely Bones. Otherwise, great pics for the rest. There are just too many awesome books to pick from out there. I would have a huge list to recommend and would probably overwhelm them. :)

  18. I agree with most of your choices. My boys were not readers though and my youngest isn't a good reader, so for middle-graders that struggle, I think the Harry Potter series may be a little too difficult and the sheer size of the book might be daunting....

    I think a great series for middle-graders were those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Remember those ones? They are fun to read and the stories are short. Those were good.

    And my older son (who is a good reader but just doesn't like to read) really enjoyed the Curque Du Freak series by Darren Shan when he was in middle school.....

  19. I made a list once of books I would suggest then threw it out. Every time I have come across a person who wants to get into reading (and I have a few times)--I have found taking them to coffee in a bookstore and talking to them about what they like to watch, listen, and hear about helps narrow down the choices. Then I show them covers of some of my favorite reads in their genres. I, even sometimes like point out books that have movie/tv companions. Sometimes new readers need that visual help! I love your choices up above though---all good ones :)

  20. Umm.. I would definitely suggest Dog On It by Spencer Quinn, I guess you would put that in the general fiction but it does fall under detective/humour. The dog is the narrator and I absolutely loved it. I would definitely suggest Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater :)

  21. What a great post, I've actually had conversations like this with my BF because we've both gotten a few friends into reading. I agree with most all your recommendations (although I would include Harry Potter for every age group, I've even gotten my parents and grandfather to read and love the books!). The only thing I would add is the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card for the sci-fi category. The books are shorter and easy to read, and the story develops and moves quickly--it's hard to get bored with these books! They aren't the most challenging books ever but do have great characters and a good story, so I've always found them to be great for newer readers looking for a good beginning sci-fi series.

  22. @Shiela Deeth - I've only read the first one so far, but was blown away by it. It was very relevant and totally scary in its possibility.

    @Jenn - Can you believe I never thought it ask about movie or TV preferences? Probably because mine don't really correspond with what I like to read. I love stupid comedies, but I like intelligent humor if a book is going to be funny.

    @Scoot - I am probably one of the few readers int eh world that hasn't read The Help. For some reason, I'm just not interested.

    @Julie P - I hadn't considered struggling child readers. I was thinking more about adults who might want to start off with some middle grade or YA before reading an adult book, like easing their way in. I have some of the Cirque du Freak books that I've been meaning to read and I have a weird booking craving to hunt down some of those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

    @Felicia - Ohh, that's a good idea. Covers can get some people really excited about the stories.

    @Spellboundbybooks - Shiver was great. I hadn't heard of Dog On It. I'll have to check it out.

    @ksbooks - I just recently read Ender's Game and have to agree. I was definitely surprised at how easy a read it was. The MG and YA suggestions, as well as the others, were for adults. Apparently I forgot to mention that in my hypothetical situation :)

  23. Brilliant! One of your best discussion posts yet Jenn! I think your suggestions are great, along with the ones in the comments.


  24. What a great idea for a post! Thanks for the ideas.

  25. @Missie & @literarywife - Thank you both so much!

  26. Great list of suggestions! I once had a non-reader start to love reading by starting him with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Another friend never loved reading, but loved reading The Da Vinci Code.

  27. @Sena - Thanks! I considered adding The Da Vinci Code as an action/adventure type book. I think it caused a lot of non-readers to pick up a book.

  28. You just gave me a brilliant idea! I have a friend who would totally love the Hunger Games!
    Now, this friend...she hates reading. She thinks it's pointless. The only book she's ever finished was Molly Moon. I am not joking. She has no interest in reading.
    I gave her a sample from a story I'm working on, and she was wowed. She told me she liked it because of the pacing. There was barely any. It's a very fast-paced project, and she devoured the couple thousand words I gave her, telling me that most books are too slow and boring, but mine had three fights in the first two pages, along with romance, and she loved it.
    I'm totally introducing her to the Hunger Games, now...

  29. @Riv Re - It does sound like she would like the Hunger Games - if you can convince her to give it a try. Non-readers are notoriously adamant in their choice not to read. I wish you the best of luck!