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?