Thursday, December 1, 2011

Literary books for the non-literary reader

Literary blog hop time! The Blue Bookcase hosts a monthly blog hop for the literary-type blogs and I like to think highly of myself, so I'm joining in again. This month's question:
What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like like literature?

 I want to focus my answer on those who like to read but just avoid "literature". Cos people who just say they don't like to read at all, well that's a different battle.* I think the problem people actually have isn't with "literature" but with bad memories of high school English reading lists. I was lucky that I had some great English teachers growing up and they certainly can take credit for my love of reading. They might like to read but they've been turned off of lit.

In this case, I'm talking about my mom. She's a voracious reader and always has been, but for the most part she stays away from lit. She's often told me how much she disliked her English classes in high school. The teachers would say: "This is what you were supposed to take from that reading, and if you thought of anything else, you're wrong." I know one of her favorite reads was David Copperfield (she used to recite the opening lines) but that's pretty much the start and end of her lit reading.

She got a Kindle about a year ago and I convinced her to read Pride and Prejudice because, hey, free. And you know what? She liked it. Now a big help here was she was already familiar with the story but she liked it. Heads up mom, I might start downloading some other (free) classics to your Kindle for you.

It's difficult to say "this is something non-literary readers should read" because people are different and some literary books are going to be a homerun for some people and a foul for others. For example, Slaughterhouse Five is, in general, a book I would recommend to the non-literary to read. However, I can't imagine that would have been a popular choice for my mom. It's not her style.

That said, here are some literary reads that will probably work for even the "lit is scary" readers. I don't know that this is going to be a super original list, but sometimes the standards are standards for a reason:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

*The people who don't like to read at all confuse me. I'm not going to say (to their face) that they're wrong because it's their free time to spend however they'd like. But reading makes me so happy and being unable to share that with people confuses me.