You Have To Read This!


As briefly mentioned in the comments to David’s Labor Day post, I used to be shy. Extraordinarily so. I knew all the popular kids in high school, but I wasn’t invited to their parties and I didn’t get asked out much. During my junior year, I worked in the library during senior lunch, manning the pass desk. Students dropped off their passes to me, and I marked their entry and exit times. Pretty mindless work, so I used the time to read. I’d discovered Heinlein a couple of years before, and I was working my way through his books, as well as Asimov and Bradbury. Eventually, a senior boy I’d been admiring for months stopped and spoke to me about the book I was reading. (Don’t ask me which one it was. My attention was riveted on the boy.) He admitted he loved SF, and suggested I read Frank Herbert’s Dune. There wasn’t a copy in the library, so he let me borrow his. (After making me promise only to open it a little way, enough to see the words but not enough to crack the spine. And no carrying it anywhere near water. As if I ever would!) After holding the book next to my heart for an hour or so, I finally started reading the story, and wow! It was great. Somehow I managed to put aside my unrequited desire and actually talk to the boy about the book. He lent me the rest of the trilogy (that’s all there was to it back then) and we moved on to other books. For the rest of the year, we talked every day about SF and fantasy. I had, at last, found a way past my shyness. I still didn’t get invited to their parties, but at least I wasn’t afraid to talk to them anymore.

Reading is as solitary an activity as writing. Short of reading out loud to someone else, it’s not a group activity. But sharing the book is an intimate experience, and finding that someone else admires the book as much as you do is a thrill. When I first read The Anubis Gates, I loved it so much I pushed it on every friend I had. I ended up buying it three times – twice in paperback, then once in hardcover, because the paperbacks had been worn slap out. Most people enjoyed it with the same verve that I did, but even though a few didn’t, I kept recommending it. I loved it that much. When my son reached an age suitable for reading grownup books, I started insisting he read Lieber and McCaffrey and Zelazny. He, in turn, has been pressing me to read R A Salvatore’s Drizz’t Do’Urden books. Sometimes the whole family will be tucked in couches and chairs on a Sunday afternoon, reading books in companionable silence. Hey, maybe it isn’t so solitary after all.

What books do you encourage people to read? What lengths have you gone to in order to spread the word?


13 comments to You Have To Read This!

  • I love the Dune trilogy, too, Misty. Herbert lost me at book 4, but the first three were, in my opinion, simply brilliant.

    I recommend TIGANA (Guy Kay) and ENDER’S GAME (OS Card) quite a bit. Also Neil Gaiman’s stuff, mainly NEVERWHERE, ANANZI BOYS, and AMERICAN GODS. That is, when I’m not trying to get people to read my books….

  • Misty, how wonderful that the boy and you shared that moment, that passion, that … book! 🙂 It brought tears to my eyes.

    The hubby never read a fiction novel until he met me, and now he’ll say, “You gotta read this!” And yes, we’ll spend an evening reading our respective novels and chatting between paras or chapters, the dogs curled up with me on the recliner.

    As to what I’d do to get someone to read… Oh my. That goes back a few years, starting with my love affair with books. If I had a hoarder gene, it got burned out when I was 16 and my parents got divorced. We moved into a *MUCH* smaller house and there was no room for my books. None. So I started using the library, buying books (or author’s collections) only after I read them, when they had already grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. Those I adored, and so I reread them, and marked them up and wrote in the margins, teaching myself how to write. (Incidentally, the advice I still give to other wannabe writers.)

    Even being space-conscious, I still ran out of shelf space, and so I spent some of my hard-earned cash (for college, so it *mattered*) and had two bookshelves made by a friend. Again, I ran out of space. I hid books on mama’s bookshelves behind the *good* books — classics and leatherbound stuff, not my trashy paperbacks. 🙂

    Mama said no.

    So I went through the collection and kept only the best of the best, giving the rest to the thrift store. The special ones, I kept until my nephew fell in love with reading fantasy in high school, and had borrowed dozens of my special collection. I gave him the collection on his 16th birthday, every single one. You should have seen his face when I told him they were his. His eyes bugged out and got all teary, and his mouth fell open. He had to make 4 trips bringing the collection home. (His mother had a hissy.)

    Now *he* has an enviable collection, and no room. He actually rented a storage unit to store his books between graduating university and apartments.

    Now? I still give books away, except for the signed ones, (which are still on those little bookshelves I had made) the hoarder gene burned out by the look on Benjamin’s face. Oh yeah — he still gets first choice of the books. I keep them on the floor of the dining room and say, “Have at them,” when he comes home on holidays.

    The remainder, I give away all the time.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I’m still too much of a hoarder to give my precious books away, but a friend of mine is constantly buying new copies of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, because if he’s a pusher, that’s his crack.

  • My wife never read Fantasy/Sci-Fi before she met me. She said she didn’t like them. Yet she liked to read Comedy books (like Bill Cosby). So one day I picked up an especially entertaining book by Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky) and asked if I could read it to her since it was comedic and I thought she would enjoy it. She did. This perked her interest and now I read to her all the time – books by GRRM, Scott Lynch, Jordan, et al. We use the reading time to share together what was previously a solitary activity.

  • I recommend Pratchett all the time. I recommend Clive Barker’s THE THEIF OF ALWAYS because it is the book that made me want to write. I started out reading horror because I picked up the Stephen King and Dean Koontz books off my mom’s shevles. (FIRESTARTER and LIGHTNIGHT, by King and Koontz respectively, are still books I remember fondly). I recommend Laurel K. Hamilton with some reservation because I haven’t read the last 3 or 4 of her Anita Blake and the last 2-3 of her Merry Gentry series because I lost interest.

    I do give folks books I like sometimes, but I don’t push them much. I do push authors in my English classes. “If you liked X try reading these authors…” We’ve got what are called “reading circles” at school now. 1 credit required classes for freshmen where they read 5 books with a group of students and just talk about them. I don’t lead one of them, but I might apply to next semester or next year. There is a classic SF one, an Urban Fantasy one, a “New Weird” one, also a Romance one, a Christian lit one, a meditation one, and a sports one. So lots of stuff. But I’m thrilled with the idea of getting our students to read for fun (even if it is for fun for credit!)

  • I used to push Frederik Pohl’s “Gateway.” The mystery and excitement of getting into an alien ship with no idea where you’d end up fascinated me as well as the whole mystery behind the Heechee. The rest of his works are very good reads as well.

    It seems Pohl doesn’t get much mention these days, but I think he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Asimov, Clarke, etc.

    And the past few years I’ve pushed GRRM quite a bit and always Ray Bradbury.

  • The book that I’ve been recommending ad nauseum lately is ONE SECOND AFTER. I would consider it post-apocalyptic SF, but it’s based on a real-world scenario that really could happen, making it even scarier. For people interested in urban fantasy, I usually recommend the first few Anita Blake books and the Jane Yellowrock series (thanks Faith!). Then there are the classic gateways: THE HOBBIT and LOTR, DUNE (although I only liked the original trilogy, the later books got too weird for me), and ENDER’S GAME. And for younger converts, Anne McCaffrey is my go-to.

    In the end, the recommendation depends on the audience!

  • Young_Writer

    Sorry I’m commenting late! In Tech class today, we had to make a list of ten similar things or people. I picked authors so I could sneak reading half of this article 🙂 Too bad I would’ve gotten caught if I logged on. Haha. By the way, today I learned that, Faith, you posted as Gary Hunter? I didn’t know that! Well, you learn somethign everyday, huh? 😉
    It’s not fantasy- except Wicked- but I recomend Gregory Maguire. I’ve read most of his more famous books, but I still can’t get my hands on a copy of Wicked. I think Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is the best I’ve read from him- so far.

  • The Anubis Gates is a pretty cool book, I also read The Stress of Her Regard also by Tim Powers, also pretty cool. As it was my friend pushed The Anubis Gates on me because up until then I only read high/epic fantasy (Eddings, Jordan, JV Jones, etc…) so it was kind of my first sci fi /fantasy cross over.
    I always recommend Robin Hobb because she’s fabbo (well her books are, I haven’t met her so I don’t know about her personally but surely she is…)
    Mark, you read aloud to your wife? I thought I was the only one. When we were reading Harry Potter we both got to the last book at the same time and rather than wait she made me read out loud. It was a really good bonding moment really.
    I also remember when I was six or maybe seven my father read The Hobbit to me and that got me stuck on fantasy.

  • My sweetie usually reads popular fiction, and myself fantasy. Since we both wanted to step away from our comfort zone periodically, we started a book club for two. Every few months we take turns choosing something and we read separately but during the same time. We talk about the books after every few chapters. About things we like, characters we don’t, how you couldn’t get away with certain things in publishing today. Fun stuff.

    Aside from Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, which we read before the movie 300, all the selections have been from classical literature. The last two were Doestevsky and Dumas. Unfortunately, the 1400-page unabridged Count of Monte Cristo exhausted us and we’ve been slow to return to the book club. We talked about it last week at the book store, though and she reminded me that it’s my turn to pick.

    I’m thinking something from Edgar Allan Poe or Don Quixote, maybe even something from Jane.

  • If it’s any consoltaion, I’m sure those high school kids now hope to be invited to your parties… 🙂

  • Sorry about the bad punctuation, or lack of it. It looks like I’ve listed Don Quixote as an author, but that was supposed to be a story. I suppose I should have listed Cervantes instead. That’s what I get for posting shortly after waking up.

  • Alan Kellogg

    At this time I’d like to recommend three by Jane Linskold. They are Through Wolves Eyes, Wolves Head, Wolves Heart and Dragon of Despair. They are remarkable for the depth of detail in the world building, and the complexity and depth of characterization.

    In a nutshell, the three are the story of one Blysse Norwood (Firekeeper), a feral child raised by sapient wolves and her adventures adapting to human life after her discovery by humans. She is a remarkable young lady, about 14 when the series opens, with numerous flaws and quirks as you’d expect an outlier adolescent to have. Her age not withstanding, these are adult books and address adult concerns.

    I’m now reading Wolf Captured, which starts another story line, and which features events foreshadowed in the first trilogy. Firekeeper is learning more about herself, and we learn more about her friends, family, and enemy. Jane put a lot of work into the background and history and it shows in the detail and action.