Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read Classics/Nonfiction/Graphic Novels

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read _______. I decided to split mine and give 5 books for people who don’t normally read classics, 5 for people who don’t read nonfiction and a bonus 5 for people who’d like to check out graphic novels…

They are considered classics for a reason people. No, you aren’t going to love every single one you read, but you’ll probably learn something from all of them.

1) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Our culture is so saturated with this story; it’s hard to find someone who has never heard of Mr. Darcy. Because of that, this can be a wonderfully accessible novel. People tend to know the basic story and reading the book introduces them to a whole new depth of humor and social comedy that the movies can’t quite capture.

2) Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – When people think of classics, they often (erroneously) think drama and tragedy. Steinbeck has a reputation for writing some particularly grim books (Lennie and his rabbits!), but this one is just delightful. It’s a great reminder that classics can be funny and light, they don’t have to end in death and destruction.

3) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – Classics can be scary! Who better to teach people this than the master of murder mysteries, Christie herself?

4) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – This enchanting story of a young woman who grows up in a run down castle is hard to resist. It’s a story of first love, growing up, family dynamics and more, all with humor and beautifully written characters thrown in for good measure.

5) Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger – The master of teen angst spawned generations of Holden Caulfields dissatisfied with the world. But before picking up Catcher in the Rye, I would check out his short story collection. It is provides wonderful examples of his writing and wicked sense of humor without some of the whining associated with Catcher.

This genre includes such a wide variety of subjects. There are books on travel, self-help, history, personal memoirs, etc. Just like fiction, there are good and bad books in each of these categories. Here’s a few I would suggest if you’d like to dip your toes in the nonfiction water…

1) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell – I love history and I love humor. Sometimes I think Sarah Vowell was created specifically for me. In this book she’s hilarious and writes about her trips to visit U.S. Presidents homes and graves in this wonderful book. Plus, you learn so much!

2) Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – I was a fan of Eggers before this, but I think this might be his best work. Here he tells the story of a man stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina with such attention to detail that you both feel like you’re there and are so glad that you weren’t.

3) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – I know, I’m a broken record, but it’s such a great character study!

4) 84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff – This collection of letters reads like a novel. A woman in New York writes back and forth with a books seller in London. It might sound boring when described like that, but it’s wonderful. It’s funny and sweet and perfect for book lovers.

5) Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – Something about the way he writes is so raw. He is like that friend you have who says the most inappropriate things, but everyone is thinking that anyway so you can’t help but laugh.

GRAPHIC NOVELS (bonus category)
This can be an intimidating genre, so let me give you the conversation I had with my husband.
HIM: So, they’re graphic as in violent content?
ME: No, they’re called graphic because there are illustrations.
HIM: So it’s a comic book.
ME: Yes, but it’s a whole book.
HIM: So it’s about superheroes?
ME: No, well it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like any kind of book, it can be about anything.
HIM: … *goes back to watching Alaska State Troopers*

1) Maus – It won the Pulitzer Prize folks. In this presentation of a Holocaust survivor, Jews are mice and Nazis are cats. It’s just amazing.

2) French Milk - For anyone who loves to travel, especially to France, loves good food or is stressed about growing up and joining the “real world.”

3) Watchmen – This was my first graphic novel. It’s perfect for the inner nerd in all of us, who is a fan of superheroes, but still wants a solid story and character development.

4) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - A woman writes about growing up in war-torn Iran, but manages to infuse the whole book with her clever wit and defiance as well as her struggle to adjust to the difficult life.

5) The Invention of Hugo Cabaret – This book was just made into a movie (Hugo) and I can’t believe I still haven’t seen it. Illustrated in shades of gray, the story follows a young orphaned boy through the streets of Paris and his home in a train station.

Photo from here.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Top notch lists!!! I would 110% agree with you on everything, and frankly I will use your classics list to improve myself. I'm a bit of a classics idiot.

Amanda said...

1. I need to read Cannery Row!

2. Sadly, I really disliked Maus. :( I wanted to love it.

3. On the other hand, I ADORED French Milk and Persepolis and The Invention of Hugo Cabret!! In fact, I've ordered the original French version of Persepolis from my library to read for my French project this year!

Teacher/Learner said...

Thanks for your suggestions, especially for the graphic novels genre. I have to admit, I thought they were limited to superhero stories, too, until I started book blogging :)

Kailana said...

What a great post! You know, I own Watchmen but I have absolutely no idea where it has vanished to. I really must find it because I still haven't read it. Thanks for the reminder!

Jenners said...

Love your list … though I'm so sick of Mr. Darcy showing up in thousands of books I could puke!! I've read most of your non-fiction books and will read the rest as we obviously agree on what we like in non-fiction. And I want to read more graphic novels (love that conversation with your hubby) so I shall use your recommendations as a starting point. Thank you!!!

Yvonne said...

Your list was great. I've read most of them and agree with you. I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain and you are definately right about his writing style. "Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil" is one of my altime favorites! I've visited Savannah several times and loved each visit.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I've learned that classics tend to seem scarier than they actually are. Once you get into them, they're just great books.

Amanda - I'm still impressed by your read it in French project. I loved all the funny differences in the HP books.

Teacher/Learner - I might never have read anny gn if a friend of mine hadn't convinced me to check them out. Yay for readers with great recommendations!

Kailana - I was so impressed with it. The writing was so clever.

Jenners - I am not a fan of Austen fan fiction, but the original is wonderful. I always love nonfiction recommendations I get from you too. I still want to check out the Pluto book.

Yvonne - Savannah is such a magical city! I loved visiting it. It feels like you've left the USA for sure.

B said...

Great lists! Good idea splitting them into three different sections. Your mention of Maus reminds me I have to hunt down Part Two.

Care said...

Wonderful lists! I assume... Many of these are still on my want-to read list, but I'm certainly giving weight to your endorsements.

Jenny said...

Good choices! (the ones I've read) I'd add Blankets to the graphic novels list -- it's one I always recommend to graphic novel newbies. Such a gorgeous book.

Trisha said...

That's a fantastic list of graphic novels!

LBC said...

There are so many great suggestions on this list in all categories. I adore Cannery Row, and graphic novels of all sorts. Zeitoun is also one of my favorite books of all time.

Bybee said...

I got so many ideas from your list! Thank you!!!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brenna - You definitely should. I loved it even more than Part 1.

Care - I hope you find some that you love.

Jenny - Thanks for the recommendation. I just bought Blankets last month and I'm excited to read it. It's huge!

Trish - Thanks, I have so many more on my TBR list.

LBC - I love both of those, such great books.

Bybee - Enjoy!

Rob said...

My to-read pile just grew a bit! I think I'll need to start with French Milk.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Rob - I hope you enjoy it!