How to pick an inspiring book for somebody who doesn’t read a lot

Although you’ll probably have a hard time trying to push somebody to do anything, a gentle nudge is something that you can always try – and maybe one day they’ll thank you. No, for real, it’s not a cliché. One writer once said that those who read live multiple lives, and who wouldn’t be up to a few more adventures?

books for somebody who doesn't read

There was that question on Quora – somebody asked how to pick an “inspiring, entertaining book that would hook someone into reading”. I stopped for a second and started typing – because I am concerned that not everything would be suited for their circumstances.

It’s difficult to just pick anything. There are volumes about “classics” and millions of lists with “best of” books, but with such a broad choice, can we just pinpoint a general list for everyone who dislikes reading? And it definitely shouldn’t be that way. We all know that tastes vary greatly, and if you pick up a book and consider it thoughtful and inspiring, not everybody will feel the same way about it.

Many people turned away from reading because once they were forced to read something they didn’t really like – say, a book at school they found boring. Even bookworms had these volumes that they hated because a figure of authority used the approach, “it’s a classic, so you MUST read it, you don’t have to get it”. You don’t want to do that all over again to your non-reader.

But, on the other hand, if you can’t relate to something and understand it, or more practically, see its purpose, then you will be able to see its charm. If it makes them feel something, then it’s likely to be a page turner for them. Start from something that floats their boat – and the rest will take care of itself.

But the taste, and the great art, you start thinking. But then again, the taste will develop slowly. I’ve had a conversation about developing tolerance to things once. My conversational partner, someone to look up to, was someone who knew a fair deal about music, and all I ever knew were the discographies of bands who were far from being in vogue anymore, especially not for the troubled young adults. Giving me advice, he asked if there was a music genre I disliked. Without thinking, I fired, “Hip-hop. I can’t stand hip-hop.” He mentioned that it’s important to keep an opened mind – and that it pushes your boundaries forward. If you dislike any metal songs and end up listening to some hardcore metal, your tolerance (and expertise) will grow. After some time, I know that he was right. If I showed you my playlists now, you’d understand – but why did I digress?

The essential thing is – all these fantastic things like developing your own sophistication when it comes to books won’t happen if you won’t keep pushing the boundaries. And it needs to start with the first copy of something you’d enjoy reading for yourself – not because somebody told you to. Then, you’ll dip into new things and build up your patience and acceptance levels.

I’ve got two examples. My sister, a dyslexic girl, was once forced to read one of a massive classics for compulsory literature and turned away from reading altogether. She hated being told to read, she didn’t find the story captivating, the prose was too tangled, there were history bits that she didn’t have enough background knowledge for. But then, she got a memoir of a popular actress she knew. Nothing super ambitious, but with a few stories you could consider inspirational – and we pulled the switch again. She picks up a book for pleasure now every now and again.

Here’s the second one: a friend of mine didn’t use to read at all. Then, she started reading self-help/inspirational books and that was the type of written word that she discovered she preferred. I am a fiction girl, hardly ever picking up any of the books she reads, so we clash here… but it’s difficult not to admit that genre got her into reading slowly.

If you’d like to show somebody that reading is worth the time, you need to show it to them from their perspective. Because an interesting read in their world might mean something else – and I think it’s better to have them read and scour those alternative worlds that not touch a book at all.

That’s why you’ll have a hard time buying a book for someone if you have no idea what they’re into. How old is the person the book is for? What sort of films do they watch? What do they do in the free time? Start from there, buy a good book that will capture their attention and show them that reading really doesn’t hurt. It can’t be another duty – because we’ve all been there. Whether it is “The Little Prince” or Harry Potter saga, “Life of Pi” or “Birdsong”, “Swing Time” or “Mrs Dalloway”, make sure that it suits her interests and personality to captivate her at first, and it’s good if they can relate to the story a little, too.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Passionate about far too many things. Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate on a daily basis. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being.
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