I come across many non-readers who show an inclination to become readers. When they realize I read books, they ask me to suggest a book for them. I always find myself in situations like this one and don’t really have a good book suggestion for beginners.
When it comes to kids, it is a bit easier. Depending on the age, either you get them started with Amar Chitra Katha or Tom Sawyer or Enid Blyton. Harry Potter is a major contender, but I wouldn’t suggest that because of the hype around it. When kids go around telling people they have read Potter books it is more to say ‘I read Potter books’ than ‘I read books’.
When it comes to grown-ups, things get complicated. Since these are non-readers, you can’t even ask them what kind of books they like. So it is upto us to decide the genre and the book. I would suggest a fast moving book which is over before the reader can say ‘boring’. The book should be gripping. From page one, the reader should be totally into it and find it hard to keep the book down. Language is another aspect – it shouldn’t be too hi-fi that one needs a dictionary for every word and also it shouldn’t be too simple. For a first book, I wouldn’t want a heavy one, literally and figuratively. There shouldn’t be any philosophy or moral of the story in the end. In other words, the first book should be like a masaledar Hindi movie.
Looking at these criteria and looking at the small variety of books I have read, the first author that comes to mind is Jeffrey Archer. (Some people may say Sidney Sheldon. I can’t comment on that because I have never read that author.) Now that I have narrowed down on the author, I have to choose a book. Everybody’s favorite is Not a penny more, not a penny less. I think Kane and Abel is a better choice for beginners. If the reader has a short attention span, Archer’s short stories will also do, especially A twist in the tale.
I haven’t yet tried this experiment. I rarely hear back from non-readers about my suggestion and their eventual attempt. I assume that person never bought the book and he/she is only too happy that I didn’t bring up the topic.
Anyways, Kane and Abel or A twist in the tale will be my answer whenever I am asked for a suggestion. What do you readers think?