17 votes

What book(s) would you recommend to someone who doesn't read, and why?

If a friend who never reads came to you and asked for book recommendations that'll grab them, what would you recommend? Furthermore, what makes those ideal choices for a habitual non-reader?

I'm not asking because I'm trying to convince someone to read something -- I'm just curious to see what some of the suggestions and reasoning will be.

31 comments

  1. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I would ask my friend what he or she likes in other media. That way it’s easy to make recommendations that are more likely to stick. When in doubt: Stephen King. Including his non-horror or less...

    I would ask my friend what he or she likes in other media. That way it’s easy to make recommendations that are more likely to stick.

    When in doubt: Stephen King. Including his non-horror or less scary stuff if the person doesn’t like that.

    Edit: comic books may also be a good entry point, even more so for people that like super hero movies

    10 votes
  2. [2]
    Kremor
    Link
    A lot of people have the believe that books equals fiction, so my suggestion would be non-fiction books: Biographies about people they admire; recountings of weird events that they may be...

    A lot of people have the believe that books equals fiction, so my suggestion would be non-fiction books: Biographies about people they admire; recountings of weird events that they may be interested in; or journalistic books of current or past events.

    6 votes
    1. Adys
      Link Parent
      In non fiction, if you are into politics, definitely would recommend The Dictator's Handbook. Reading it changed how I view politics entirely.

      In non fiction, if you are into politics, definitely would recommend The Dictator's Handbook. Reading it changed how I view politics entirely.

      2 votes
  3. cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm going to second @mrbig's recommendation of comics, but also throw in graphic novels and maybe some translated manga as well, since as a format they will likely be far less intimidating to...

    I'm going to second @mrbig's recommendation of comics, but also throw in graphic novels and maybe some translated manga as well, since as a format they will likely be far less intimidating to infrequent readers than novels. And it should also be noted that the format is way more diverse in subject matter these days than the 1960-70s stereotype; The vast majority of the ones I read are not superhero related or even superhero adjacent.

    As for which particular comic/GN/manga series I would recommend, that would entirely depend on the person and their tastes... though off the top of my head, some that should have pretty good general appeal are:
    Fables (or ones of its many spinoffs), Locke & Key, Saga, Persepolis, Maus, The Walking Dead (much better than the show!), Y: the Last Man, Bone, American Vampire, Mouse Guard, Lone Wolf and Cub

    YA novels, and short story collections/anthologies are also probably a great place to get people to start reading as well, since they are also generally more approachable and require less of a time commitment than "normal" novels. Again, which ones I recommend would depend on the person though.

    p.s. And while they are not to my personal taste, I know several older people (my mother, several aunts, and even one of my uncles amongst them) who started their reading journeys later in life via erotica and historical romance novels, and who continue to read those genres almost exclusively. So to each their own. :)

    4 votes
  4. [3]
    evrim
    Link
    Might be an unpopular opinion on Tildes, but I can’t think of anything better than Harry Potter. I’ve had friends who were turned off by its being a fantasy series whom decided to borrow the books...

    Might be an unpopular opinion on Tildes, but I can’t think of anything better than Harry Potter. I’ve had friends who were turned off by its being a fantasy series whom decided to borrow the books from me after reading a few pages.

    There is a reason why it is as famous as it is, excluding the first few chapters of the first book, it’s hard to put them down. At least that’s been my and many of my friends’ experience.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      mat
      Link Parent
      I was going to mention YA fiction, because it's usually relatively simple in terms of language and structure, but with plenty of exciting plot and engaging characters. I wouldn't have chosen Harry...

      I was going to mention YA fiction, because it's usually relatively simple in terms of language and structure, but with plenty of exciting plot and engaging characters.

      I wouldn't have chosen Harry Potter first though, and not just because Rowling is a terrible person. It's just not all that great a book compared to other options in the same area. I'd go with China Mieville's Un Lun Dun (also Gaiman's Neverwhere), Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines. Maybe a bit of Roald Dahl too.

      Also I'd probably throw some Pratchett and Douglas Adams in there - although not strictly YA, they're still easy reads with strong stories.

      8 votes
      1. evrim
        Link Parent
        I love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but for me, it was nowhere near as captivating as the Harry Potter books. To each his own. Also, as an aside, I don't agree with everything Rowling...

        I love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but for me, it was nowhere near as captivating as the Harry Potter books. To each his own.

        Also, as an aside, I don't agree with everything Rowling says either, but I don't know how anyone can call her a "terrible person."

  5. [8]
    muh_tilde
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    I would probably give someone Vonnegut. I always find him engaging, funny, and insightful. He's covers a variety of topics so I think I could find something within the person's interest. Or I...

    I would probably give someone Vonnegut. I always find him engaging, funny, and insightful. He's covers a variety of topics so I think I could find something within the person's interest. Or I would just give them God Bless You Mr. Rosewater

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Vonnegut is easily one of my top ten authors, and so related to my suggestion of starting people off with short story collections, Welcome to the Monkey House is one I would highly recommend since...

      Vonnegut is easily one of my top ten authors, and so related to my suggestion of starting people off with short story collections, Welcome to the Monkey House is one I would highly recommend since it features a bunch of incredibly well written, diverse, and quite famous short stories by Vonnegut.

      p.s. The collection also includes the short story which the collection is named after, which was fictionally written by Kilgore Trout (a recurring character in Vonnegut's other novels, who also appears in Mr. Rosewater). :)

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        muh_tilde
        Link Parent
        I've read all his novels but not many short stories. Coincidentally I was digging thru boxes of stuff a few days ago looking for something and came across my copy of While Mortals Sleep. I thought...

        I've read all his novels but not many short stories. Coincidentally I was digging thru boxes of stuff a few days ago looking for something and came across my copy of While Mortals Sleep. I thought I'd lost it before I even had a chance to read. It's now on my coffee table so I can read a story now and then (alongside Ursula Le Guin's translation of Tao Te Ching I got recently). Heard great things about monkey house so I'll pick that up soon as well.

        I'm not much of a re-reader but I've read a bunch of Vonnegut novels 2 or 3 times. He was such a good man with an amazing life perspective. He helped me shape a lot of my personal philosophies and got me back into reading fiction after school.

        1 vote
        1. cfabbro
          Link Parent
          I think I have read and reread most of Vonnegut's work at this point too (including all his short stories in my case though), and own almost all of his work (other than his essays) as physical...

          I think I have read and reread most of Vonnegut's work at this point too (including all his short stories in my case though), and own almost all of his work (other than his essays) as physical copies. And ditto on him having a massive impact on my personal philosophy too. So it goes. ;)

          1 vote
    2. [4]
      moocow1452
      Link Parent
      Combine that with the graphic novel suggestion, and you could recommend the recent adaptation of Slaughter-House Five.

      Combine that with the graphic novel suggestion, and you could recommend the recent adaptation of Slaughter-House Five.

      3 votes
      1. cfabbro
        Link Parent
        Holy shit. How the hell did I miss that being released? It combines two of my favorite things, Vonnegut and Graphic Novels. Thanks for making me aware of it! edit: "Temporarily out of stock."...

        Holy shit. How the hell did I miss that being released? It combines two of my favorite things, Vonnegut and Graphic Novels. Thanks for making me aware of it!

        edit: "Temporarily out of stock." Fuck. I really wanted a hardcover copy. :(

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        muh_tilde
        Link Parent
        That looks awesome! Do you have it?

        That looks awesome! Do you have it?

        2 votes
        1. moocow1452
          Link Parent
          I checked it out through Hoopla. It's pretty good, definitely keeping my attention better than when I tried to read it in high school.

          I checked it out through Hoopla. It's pretty good, definitely keeping my attention better than when I tried to read it in high school.

          2 votes
  6. [5]
    Erik
    Link
    There's some good recommendations here, but just to come at it from a different perspective. I'd recommend a Chuck Palahniuk book if it was a man or someone that seems to present more masculine...

    There's some good recommendations here, but just to come at it from a different perspective. I'd recommend a Chuck Palahniuk book if it was a man or someone that seems to present more masculine and doesn't read much because books are seen as perhaps a little frou frou. Much like how R.L. Stine takes great pride that he got a lot of young boys to read books, Palahniuk has talked about how happy he is that so many "manly" men who usually don't show up for book readings and similar events show up for his stuff.

    If I had to give just one Palahniuk book, I'd probably do Survivor. It's a short read, has a lot of action and a good amount of humor too. If they ended up liking it, then I'd probably move on to some authors mentioned here like Vonnegut.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      muh_tilde
      Link Parent
      Good call. I haven't read much of his stuff but I really enjoyed Rant. And Guts really sucked me in lol. That one stays with ya!

      Good call. I haven't read much of his stuff but I really enjoyed Rant. And Guts really sucked me in lol. That one stays with ya!

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Erik
        Link Parent
        ha! I see what you did there. Rant is one of my favorite Palahniuk books. I really want to see a mockumentary style adaptation of it, maybe like a mini-series made in the style of some of these...

        ha! I see what you did there.

        Rant is one of my favorite Palahniuk books. I really want to see a mockumentary style adaptation of it, maybe like a mini-series made in the style of some of these docu-series that have been kind of big on Hulu lately.

        2 votes
        1. muh_tilde
          Link Parent
          Thay would be rad! I just looked it up and James Franco owns the rights. Was a quick check but I didn't see any updates more recently than 2016 though unfortunately.

          Thay would be rad!

          I just looked it up and James Franco owns the rights. Was a quick check but I didn't see any updates more recently than 2016 though unfortunately.

          2 votes
      2. dozens
        Link Parent
        Thanks @muh_tilde for making me relive that particular horror 😱

        And Guts really sucked me in lol

        Thanks @muh_tilde for making me relive that particular horror 😱

        2 votes
  7. [7]
    dubteedub
    Link
    I would suggest something fun and fantastical, that is still fairly easy to read. Tolkein's the Hobbit would probably be my first choice. It is a simple adventure story with fun, memorable...

    I would suggest something fun and fantastical, that is still fairly easy to read.

    Tolkein's the Hobbit would probably be my first choice. It is a simple adventure story with fun, memorable characters.

    While not my favorite Sanderson book, Mistborn is another accessible read that has lots of action, magic, and intrigue. It is basic a heist book too which is a lot of fun.

    I would also second @mat's suggestion and highly recommend anything by Terry Pratchet.

    2 votes
    1. Adys
      Link Parent
      To go with your recommandations, the Northern Lights trilogy (His Dark Materials). Shorter than HP, just as entertaining. I remember it being so gripping as a kid.. one of those books I want to...

      To go with your recommandations, the Northern Lights trilogy (His Dark Materials). Shorter than HP, just as entertaining. I remember it being so gripping as a kid.. one of those books I want to read again in the original language now that I can.

      3 votes
    2. [5]
      mat
      Link Parent
      Eeep, no, not Tolkien. His prose is such hard work. He's very like George R R Martin in that regard: great plots, memorable characters, really strong world-building - but painfully clunky,...

      Eeep, no, not Tolkien. His prose is such hard work. He's very like George R R Martin in that regard: great plots, memorable characters, really strong world-building - but painfully clunky, pedestrian writing. The Hobbit is the least hard work of Tolkien's books but it's still going to be pretty tough going for a non-reader.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        dubteedub
        Link Parent
        Hmm, fair enough. I always considered the Hobbit basically a children's book and remember reading it pretty young myself.

        Hmm, fair enough. I always considered the Hobbit basically a children's book and remember reading it pretty young myself.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          mat
          Link Parent
          Aren't all of Tolkien's books children's books? I've always put him on the same mental shelf as people like Dickens, Ransome, Nesbit and so on. A category I might label Improving Texts For Young...

          Aren't all of Tolkien's books children's books? I've always put him on the same mental shelf as people like Dickens, Ransome, Nesbit and so on. A category I might label Improving Texts For Young Minds in that Victorian/early 20C sort of way.

          Nothing wrong with children's books, of course. Many of my favourite books are children's books.

          1. [2]
            dubteedub
            Link Parent
            I was under the impression that The Hobbit was created for children, maybe a young teen audience. In contrast, my understanding is that LOTR is more adult fantasy.

            I was under the impression that The Hobbit was created for children, maybe a young teen audience. In contrast, my understanding is that LOTR is more adult fantasy.

            4 votes
            1. mat
              Link Parent
              Fair enough, I don't really know what his intent was or how they were sold at the time. I read both Hobbit and LotR as a teenager and didn't really enjoy either.

              Fair enough, I don't really know what his intent was or how they were sold at the time. I read both Hobbit and LotR as a teenager and didn't really enjoy either.

  8. tomf
    Link
    I wasn’t a big reader until about five or six years ago. I tucked into the Harry Bosch universe and never looked back. The original Jason Bourne trilogy is also great. Good reads all around with...

    I wasn’t a big reader until about five or six years ago. I tucked into the Harry Bosch universe and never looked back.

    The original Jason Bourne trilogy is also great.

    Good reads all around with stories that are easy to track without being boring or dipping down.

    For folks who prefer nonfiction, The Orchid Thief is really fun.

    2 votes
  9. crdpa
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    Maus... but beware, it's really depressing. Or for something lighter (and fictional): Animal Farm.

    Maus... but beware, it's really depressing.

    Or for something lighter (and fictional): Animal Farm.

    2 votes
  10. culturedleftfoot
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    I second the comic book suggestion, and would also throw in something like general knowledge/trivia books, or a book of jokes/card tricks/magic tricks, or something like that. For those of us who...

    I second the comic book suggestion, and would also throw in something like general knowledge/trivia books, or a book of jokes/card tricks/magic tricks, or something like that. For those of us who have already learned the skills and built up the discipline for reading, it's easy to overlook or forget how intimidating novels can seem to non-readers. They also usually have assumptions or unstated expectations about books, e.g. they might read the first five pages and not be totally hooked yet, so they're daunted about going through the entire 200 pages. It's especially the case for those who have consumed TV, movies, and video games instead of books. They need to start with stuff accompanied by illustrations, stuff they can digest in chunks, or stuff they can just flip open to any page and dive in. That is how we introduce kids to reading in the first place, after all.

    2 votes