Thursday, January 9, 2014

Books: converting a non-reader to reading

Books are one of the best things in the world. They can change your life. If you're desperate to hook up your child to books, hopefully this will be of some help.

When I was a kid and a teenager up until 14 years old, I rarely read books, to the dismay of my mother. When I was 8, 9, or 10 years old, she tried to interest me in "The Famous Five" series, to no avail. She did (and still does) have a love for words and reading and she deemed important for her children to read. And she was probably pleased that my elder sister shared her interest for books. But that wasn't my thing at all. I was into comics and the various magazines I was subscribed to, which told me about dinosaurs, tropical snakes, planets, stars, etc... and I was watching way more cartoons and TV series than reasonable.

I did read occasionally some book recommended by a friend, like Barjavel's "Future Times Three".

Tipping point

In the various quiz shows that I had watched, there was a book title that came back regularly so I supposed that it had to be a good one. And it was about science-fiction. So, some day, while discussing with my mother about my lack of reading, I mentioned it to her and told her that if she bought me "Dune" I would read it. She accepted. But instead of buying me "Dune" which is often sold in 2 volumes, she brought me the full series of 7 books... the latter ones being much bigger than the first ones. I am not sure if that was accidental or a Machiavellian move, but it did have positive results, so if your kid says OK for a book, just bring him the full series and play dumb! The beginning of my journey through Dune was tedious. I think it took me a full summer to read the 2 volumes of Dune plus Dune Messiah which completes the first story. 2 months for 3 books is lame, but that's a starting point.

Then I read on the rest of the series. That's when I got into role-playing games, which got me to read rules books. Then I discovered other science-fiction books or series. I also picked up Werber's "Empire of the ants" and "The Thanatonauts". From there, I already had a liking for science-fiction novels which was fed even more by meeting other students who recommended me books they had read. It even happened on some weekend that I picked up a book at breakfast only to finish it by dusk of the same day.


Partly because it took me so long to get through it, I don't recommend Dune as a starting point. Instead, I recommend Roger Zelazny's 1st chronicle of Amber (the first 5 books):

  1. Nine Princes in Amber
  2. The Guns of Avalon
  3. Sign of the Unicorn
  4. The Hand of Oberon
  5. The courts of Chaos
I successfully used this series of novels to introduce my non-reading best friend to reading.


Nowadays, I read a bit of everything: programming languages, geopolitics and economy, spy novels, biology, philosophy, religion... Books are an incredible source of knowledge, and they can be useful to teach oneself in the professional world. But you need the right conditions to start reading.

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