Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Salon: What Would You Recommend to a New Reader?

I love a good rain storm. It makes perfect reading weather. I am about to settle in for a little reading this morning, the hour or two before my husband wakes up and we begin our day officially. I did not pick up The Woman in White at all this past week, instead finishing off Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup. I am now eager to see the movie. It is not really a good idea to see the movie so close to having read the book, I have found, but I cannot seem to help myself sometimes. I had planned to see it this weekend, but the best laid plans do not always come together. There's always next weekend. [ Change in plans! My husband and I have decided to break our stay-at-home Sunday routine and go see the movie today. We have to get dog food and kitty litter anyway, and since we'll already be out . . . ]

Among my coworkers are two men who have very different perspectives on reading. One disdains the reading of books, dismisses it as a waste of time, while the other has never been able to really get into reading despite a desire to do so. He sees his daughter reading at home and me with a book at work and he wishes he could get swept up in the pages of a book as completely as we do.

One day this past month, he mentioned to me in passing that he would like to read two books this year. He has not read even one book in the last several years, and so two is quite a challenge for him. He is looking for recommendations, and while I have a few books in mind, I was curious to know what you would recommend.

A little about him that might help you along: My coworker is a baseball fan and plays golf on occasion. He is a war veteran. He has a great sense of humor and is a really laid back sort of guy. He is married and the father of teenagers, a boy and a girl. He recently adopted a rescue dog.

I would love to hear your recommendations for my coworker, and I am sure he would too. Have you ever inspired someone to try his or her hand at reading? Recommended a book that got someone hooked? Did someone inspire you? If you came to enjoy reading late in life, what book was it that first drew you in?

Week in Review:
Monday at the Movies: Inkheart and Phantom of the Opera
Off Topic Chatter: Responding to Comments and a BookWorm Giveaway (deadine to enter is tomorrow at 11:59 p.m., so hurry if you want a chance to win!)
Review of Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith
Bookish Chatter (Monday Musings: Choosing What to Buy & Mailbox Monday)
More Bookish Chatter (Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information & Friday Fill Ins)


  1. I wonder what he would think about The Things They Carried? It is a powerful story of soldiers in Viet Nam.

    My brother is a big reader and a baseball fan. He has liked all the Kinsella books he has read.

    Or, if he is just interested in a good escape/action book, he might like all those big, thick books by...hmmm...well, you know, the fellow who writes about the ocean...oh, I'm so frustrated as I can't think of this author...the historical books about men on the ocean....

  2. Hmmmm....I'm not sure that I can pair books with a person's interests, but I do have a sports-minded son who absolutely loathes reading (much to his mother's dismay). He did, however, enjoy John Grisham's "Bleachers" (although this is football and not baseball), and he has told me on several occasions that the only book that caused him to cry is John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men". Of course there is always my favorite, which is incredibly funny and appeals to the dog lover in all of us, "Marley and Me."

    On a separate note --- I read "The Woman in White" over Christmas break and absolutely loved it. I am anxious to hear your review.

  3. Deb - I know my dad really liked The Things They carried. That might be a good one for my coworker to try as well.

    Are you thinking of Patrick O'Brien? He's the only author I can think of that writes historical fiction about men on the ocean. My husband enjoys his books, I know.

    Thank you for the recommendations! They all sound like good ones.

    Molly - Thank you for the recommendations, Molly! He might just like Grisham's novel. Although I haven't read Bleachers, I found the Grisham book I did read compelling.

    I was actually thinking of dropping a copy of Marley and Me on the desk of my coworker who hates to read. :-) He adores dogs and it might be just the book for him.

    Hopefully I will get to The Woman in White today and get it finished this week. I am enjoying it although am finding it slow going.

  4. I'm bad with recommending books to people who don't read, especially men. My dad has never been interested in reading. He read to me when I was little, but he mostly views reading as a waste of time. Somehow watching TV is okay though - something I will never understand.

    I would probably go with a thriller or something else that is really easy to pick up and understand and all the meaning is right on the surface where he can get to it easily. Perhaps a mystery so he feels compelled to continue. I'm sure you know more about those than I do, though. =)

  5. I'm terrible at recommending books. A co-worker tried to get me to recommend a book this week, but she didn't like any of the genres I recommended.

    Did you see Slumdog Millionaire? How was it? I've heard so many good things about it.

  6. Meghan - Men can be difficult to buy books for. My dad is actually very easy though. I have his tastes and interests down pretty well, although he surprises me sometimes.

    Thrillers are a good idea--fast paced and as you said, they are right on the surface. Great idea!

    Yvonne - I know people like that. They say no to just about everything and you want to ask them why they bothered asking in the first place.

    We're about to head out to see Slumdog Millionaire now. The first showing starts in 40 minutes. I'll let you know what I think!

  7. You know my dad always and has always seen me with a book in hand and I've oftened wondered if he didn't harbor a secret want to be doing the same. However all he ever reads is his Bible and newspaper. The other day I notice a bookmnark in an old copy of Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. He tells me he's reading it. First I was shocked, now I'm impressed. A man who has never liked to read picked up STeinbeck and likes it. So, in some way I feel I inspired that and I'm proud of it as I'm always encouraging him to pick up a book. Do you think your co-worker might like something like that--my dad is enjoying Of Mice and Men because of the farming aspect. That's a great way to find something to read is by finding a common tag with it. Maybe this fellow would enjoy some of the war novels we've been reading too.

  8. I wonder what he would think of Seabiscuit? Guys seem to like non-fiction better, and this is one I totally enjoyed even not being a horse person. I don't know. It's the first one that came to mind! Good luck. You'll have to update us on his "progress"!

  9. Oh, the pressure! I always get so nervous in recommending books to new or reluctant readers. Books are such personal things, and what happens if the person doesn't like it and decides they'd rather not go through the trouble! My husband is not a reader at all...he is too busy more than anything, and tired when he gets home. Even with that, he flies through the Grisham books. Not alot of character development, but reads like a past-paced screen play. Or what about the DaVinci Code? You don't get more fast-paced than that!

  10. Here are some books that every man in my family has liked -- the avid readers and the pokey readers alike:

    Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
    Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder

    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger- set in one of the Dakotas with male lead characters and lots of manly (but not machismo) stuff
    Whistling Season by Ivan Doig - set in Montana (?) with male lead characters and lots of manly (but not machismo) stuff

    All of these got the husband-endorsement at our house.

  11. I actually didn't know Slumdog Millionaire was also a book. I hope you enjoy the movie!

    Since he had a great sense of humour, your co-worked might appreciate The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or maybe Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I actually know a lot of reluctant readers who loved both books!

  12. My dad was never a reader in his life, but a few years ago he picked up "Tales From Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett, and now he reads all the time! He also loved Dave Barry's "The Complete Guide To Guys". That one's nice and short and hysterically funny. It's not a girl's dating guide like it sounds. It's a book about what guys are like. My dad read it on a plane trip to Hawaii, and he laughed out loud so often that the guy sitting next to him asked what he was reading so he could buy it. :-)


  13. For non-fiction, I agree with the other commenters: "The Things They Carried" is a great pick.

    If he loves baseball, Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes" is a good place to start. He may also enjoy Richard Ford's "Independence Day."

  14. I can't wait to see what you think of the movie, especially after reading the book. As far as your co-worker, men non-readers are so hard. I perused my shelves and all I can think of is Cormac McCarthy or Brad Meltzer. I haven't read Meltzer yet, but my boss likes Meltzer, but my brother would be more drawn to McCarthy.

  15. I read somewhere that men seem to really enjoy Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. Might be worth checking out.

  16. I hope he is able to find a book. It seems a shame that he can't find anything that really interests him. I've been planning on reading Woman in White but after reading your thoughts I'll have to remember that it moves slowly. Enjoy your movie :)

  17. This is hard! What bout Dave Sedaris because he has a sense of humor or Stephen King or Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck or The Grapes of Wrath? Good luck. Please tell us what happens.

  18. My husband who is not a reader recently asked me to pick out a book to get him started. I've been trying to decide. Great to read people's suggestions!

  19. My mom was a non-reader most of my life but I finally got her hooked a couple of years ago. Just find out what his favorite movies are or favorite movie genre. That's what I did.

  20. I was going to weigh in earlier, but wow, I'm behind. I concur with many of the choices, especially the O'Brien (Things That They Carried) of which I've only heard good things.

  21. Since he's a baseball fan with a great sense of humor, I bet he'd like
    LAST DAYS OF SUMMER by Steve Kluger. Great book.

  22. I'm generally not great at recommending books to people who aren't much into reading, but I can tell you what the "not big readers" in my life generally like. My dad is hooked on Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series. He doesn't read too much, but he's always after me to read this series. They totally suck him in, and he reads them *fast* even when the TV is on! So - if you think the fast-moving thriller type thing might do the trick, I'd definitely think about trying those. Oh and Dean Koontz loves dogs, and they can usually be found playing big roles in his stories - not sure that is the case with the Odd books, but it's quite likely!

    One of my best friends is not much of a reader, but she got hooked on books full of Stephen King's short stories (i.e. Skeleton Crew or Everything's Eventual, and I wonder if short stories might seem less daunting to someone who hasn't read a whole book in quite some time....

    Anyhow, hope you find something he'll like. Let us know how it goes! =)

  23. Have you ever inspired someone to try his or her hand at reading? I am always trying on a daily basis due to my job as the librarian at my son's middle school. Some days I can hit a home run while other days I totally strike out. But I shake the dust off and go back out to bat the next day. I have had kids tell me that they loved the book I told them about so much that they stayed up way past bedtime to finish it. And when they come back to me looking for more help...that totally makes me feel like I've done my job!!

    Recommended a book that got someone hooked? Oh yeah, I have all sorts of kids who are addicted to Tamora Pierce, D.J. MacHale, Joseph Delaney, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale, Anthony Horowitz, Gary Paulsen, my list could go on forever...

    I find that I have a much easier time recommending books to 5th-8th grade than I do for adults but I noticed where one of your commenters suggested The Things They Carried and that sounds like a winner, Carl Hiassen's books are pretty fun reading, and John Grisham's early stuff is great. Make sure you let us know what you eventually decided upon and what he thought about it when he was finished!!

  24. I was thinking Catch-22 by Joseph Heller or M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker if he's a war veteran with a sense of humor. They're both pretty entertaining :)

    If he wants something serious and literary but still with war themes, I really enjoyed All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.


  25. I suggested Dean Koontz to a male student in my high school study skills class. He read two. During the 2nd he said to me that he knew what I was doing; that I was trying to make a reader out of him but that it wouldn't work. I wonder today if he ever picks up a book. Speaking of Dean Koontz, my husband loves the Odd Thomas series.

    A book that was suggested to me was Mort by Terry Pratchett. Great storyline with some really good humor.

    An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg is an excellent book that he may like.

    I think it's great that he's seen you and his daughter reading and feels the desire to stick his nose in a book. I wish him well.

  26. I'd suggest Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She writes so engagingly about her childhood as a Dodger fan - everyone I know, male and female, has enjoyed it!

  27. The Things They Carried was the first book that came to my mind, too. In spite of the fact that parts of it are based on O'Brien's experiences in Vietnam, it is actually a work of fiction.

    My dad loves adventure stories, and Clive Cussler and Douglas Preston are two of his favorite authors. They're fairly light reading and draw you right into the story.

  28. I just wrote about wanting it to rain so badly :)

    I like the Slumdog movie, it's nice but not as good as the hype. Hope you liked it (I guess it must be Sunday night there, I am not sure).

    I am really bad at recommendations. But I think any good thriller work best with guys, something with more of a plot than just beautiful writing.

  29. I think the early Grishams, especially THE FIRM would be a good recommendation. Also, the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum or even the Lee Child books (my husband really likes those). Dean Koontz recently had one with a dog in it, written after his own dog died I think.

  30. Maybe something by Ken Follett? He has a wide variety of books.

    I love reading during a rainstorm while my husband is still asleep, too. It's almost perfect.

  31. Well my husband has been critical of every book I've lent him except The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver. He LOVES that one and recommends it to everyone.

  32. For some reason the book Everest by Jon Krakaur comes to mind. Since it's a man, I'm thinking nonfiction, but a real pageturner. If I had any clue, I'd suggest something sports related. My husband enjoyed Dick Schaap's autobiography (sports guy).

  33. I'm thinking a really entertaining and gripping thriller would be good. Something to really sweep him up. I used to read a lot of Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins when I was younger and went through a no reading phase! They helped.

  34. Dar - How neat! I am glad your father is enjoying Steinbeck's of Mice and Men. And thank you for the reading ideas for my friend! I have been thinking he might enjoy a war story. I know my own father enjoys those kinds of books (and quite a few others as well).

    Suey - I hadn't thought of that one! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Sandy - And I don't want to recommend something to him that will turn him off of reading. It can be challenging. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Suzanne - Thank you for the recommendations! I actually have a copy of Whistling Season on my shelf. I could loan him my copy. :-)

    Nymeth - Douglas Adams' books are good! And although I haven't read Terry Pratchett before, I imagine Good Omens is quite funny. Both great recommendations. Thanks!

    Lezlie - Those both sound good! Thanks for the recommendations.

    Priscilla - I think he might like The Things They Carried. I'm pretty sure that will be one of my recommendations to him. Thank you too for the baseball related recommendations!

    Kristy - It is difficult coming up with books I think he might enjoy. It's so easy with my husband and father since they both like to read and I am familiar with their reading tastes. Thanks for the ideas!

  35. Trish - Thanks for the recommendation!

    Samantha - We'll find him something. :-) I don't think it's a matter of not finding something that interests him, rather just his lack of interest in reading at all over the years.

    N. vasillis - I hadn't thought of Dave Sedaris. That's a great idea! Thank you too for your other recommendations!

    Mangomissives - I hope you are able to find something your husband might enjoy.

    Jen - He isn't really into movies, I'm afraid, although he does like some of the older ones.

    Bryan - Thank you for your input. I'm fairly certain one of the books I recommend will be Things That They Carried. It seems to be a popular choice. :-)

  36. Lynne - I've read one of Steve Kluger's books and enjoyed it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Megan - Dean Koontz would be a good one for him to try. I've read a couple of his books myself and I really liked them. Stephen King is another good option. Thanks for the recommendations.

    Staci - You're in the perfect position to make book recommendations! I imagine it can be hit or miss sometimes. I find that to be true with my husband now and then. He's rather picky about what he likes and doesn't like, sometimes surprising me. Thanks for your recommendations! I will be giving him my recommendations this next week. Hopefully he'll discover a love for reading. :-)

    Cecilia - Catch-22 is a good one. I hadn't heard of the Richard Hooker book, but it sounds like something that he might like. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Booklogged - It would be interesting to know if the student in your high school class still reads, I agree. Dean Koontz would be a good one to try. Thank you for the recommendations!

    Teabird - That does sound like a good one! Thanks for the recommendation.

  37. Carrie K. - That must mean it was meant to be. :-) Thank you for the recommendations!

    Eliza - I hope you do get your rain! He just might enjoy a thriller. Something fast paced. My husband isn't too keen on thrillers, but he does like mysteries, so I may go that route too. Thanks for your input!

    Kay - Grisham is a good one. And Ludlum's books, although I haven't tried himself yet. I do like Dean Koontz. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Nikki - That's a good idea! And you are definitely right; Ken Follett has written quite a variety of books. Thanks for the idea!

    Amanda - My husband can be rather picky too. Thank you for the recommendation!

    Tara - I really like Jon Krakauer's writing, and my friend might too. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Mariel - Something like that would probably capture his interest. Thanks for the recommendations!


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