How to Hook a New Reader?

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Me (left) and my sister when our oldest children were little.

Me (left) and my sister when our oldest children were little.

My sister and I are very different. She is only two years younger than me, but our personalities couldn’t be further apart. She didn’t understand my passion for reading and hadn’t read a book in years. Then, last summer, Fifty Shades of Grey became a publishing phenomenon and she was Fifty Shades of Greytempted to give it a try. She flew through the entire trilogy and then moved on to the Bared to You series. With a new found passion for reading she came to me for advice. Delighted that she’d begun reading I immediately ordered a copy of The Hunger Games for her and sat back, waiting for the gushing praise to materialise. Unfortunately it didn’t. She finished the book and described it as “OK.” Her main problem was that it was out of her comfort zone; too different from anything she’d experienced before. Now she’s back for another recommendation and I want to ensure that the next book she reads is perfect, but I don’t know what to suggest.

I’ve been thinking back to the books that sparked my love for reading, but I don’t think any of them are suitable. She wouldn’t enjoy Duncton Wood and Flowers in the Attic is too long. Many of the other books I read would be dated now and I don’t think she’d appreciate the darker subject matters I love. I think chick-lit is the way to go, but I don’t know what to suggest. It needs to be easy to read, compelling and, as a mother, I think she’d appreciate the inclusion of some children.

Can you think of any suitable books?

Do you know anyone who started reading after trying Fifty Shades of Grey? If so, which books did they move on to?

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  1. Caroline says:

    Since it is said that Fifty Shades is Twilight fan fiction wouldn’t she like Twilight? At least book I? It definitely sounds as if she might like romance and chick lit as you say. Unfortunately I’m underread in that genre. But Jo Jo Moyes gets such a lot of high praise? Cecelia Ahern could be a winner too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Caroline, Yes. I did think about Twilight, but I worry she won’t like the fantasy elements. I think I need to find something she can relate to first. I have heard good things about Moyes and Ahern, but I haven’t read them so haven’t a clue which ones to suggest. Hopefully someone who knows more about chick lit will be along to help soon.

  2. Caroline says:

    That’s a super cute photo, btw.

  3. Jeanne says:

    I don’t know anyone who hasn’t liked John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, That is a book I really want to read. Isn’t it depressing though? I’ll have to try it and see if I think she’ll like it. Thanks for reminding me about it.

  4. Iona says:

    I immediately think of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith! Not sure why but sprung to mind.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iona, That is an interesting suggestion! She’s not a big traveller so I don’t think it is quite right for her next book, but perhaps in a few months I’ll add it to the pile :-)

  5. Ellie says:

    I would recommend Jojo Moyes (Me Before You is a good place to start) or perhaps Jane Green’s more recent books which have more of a family aspect (I didn’t like The Patchwork Marriage because it was a bit too obsessed with motherhood but other have loved it). Moving away from chick-lit but easy to read and again family orientated is Jodi Picoult. Also Marian Keyes is excellent.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ellie, I haven’t read any of those, but a book obsessed with motherhood sounds perfect! I’ll see if I can pick up a copy from my library to check what it’s like. Thanks for the suggestions!

    2. Aparatchick says:

      I’ll second JoJo Moyes (wonderful storyteller) and Marian Keyes. And I’ll add Hester Browne to the list in the “light and fun” category (her The Little Lady Agency series, specifically).

  6. Joanna says:

    Maybe something by Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes? They’re light but they’re also funny and well-written.

    1. Yes, I think they would be good choices. How about The Undomestic Goddess by Kinsella?

      1. Jackie says:

        Marian Keyes is an author I used to love, but I worried the books I read 10+years ago would be dated. I guess she’s written newer ones that might be worth checking out? Kinsella isn’t an author I know much about – I’ll have a look in my library and see if The Undomestic Goddess might appeal to her. Thanks for the recomendations!

  7. Stujallen says:

    Well was going say twilight but Caroline has got there already .Jilly cooper I’ve not read her meant be quite raunchy and may be a similar feel to fifty shades all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, Jilly Cooper is a great suggestion! But aren’t her books really long too? Perhaps one for the future when she’s fallen in love with reading?

  8. I love chick list! I’d recommend Jennifer Weiner’s early books, or Jane Green’s early books. I second the person who suggested Sophie Kinsella. Also, Emily Giffin is really great and fun – her book Heart of the Matter centers around two characters who both have kids.

    1. Jackie says:

      threegoodrats, Thank you for all the recommendations! Heart of the Matter sounds like a book I need to investigat. I’ll let you know how I get on :-)

  9. Love that photo of all of you.

    No children in these but I was thinking the Janet Evanovich series – One For the Money etc. Funny, a bit of a mystery and certainly easy to follow.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, Evanovich is one of those authors I’ve heard about, but never really knew what her books were like. Thanks for letting me know – a bit of a mystery might be nice.

  10. Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie falls into the category of better quality chick lit. No kids in that one though.
    Or, I wonder if she might like something by Jodi Picoult. Salem Falls was interesting.

    1. Jackie says:

      Krisite, Picoult is a great suggestion! I love My Sister’s Keeper! I wonder if it will be a bit sad for her though – might save that one for a little while.

      1. True…My Sister’s Keeper is a tearjerker. Salem Falls is a little less sad, though wouldn’t be Picoult without some heart wrenching drama. I’m also wondering if she might like Water for Elephants. I’ve yet to find someone who dislikes that one.

  11. Mrs.B says:

    I just finished Wonder by RJ Palacio and it was wonderful. The kind of book that transcends genres and appeals to every literary taste including non-readers. I was just thinking that this is the book I would give to the non readers in my life. Hope this helps and if she does read it let me know how it goes,

    1. Jackie says:

      Mrs B, I read Wonder last year and did enjoy it. I think I might be a good choice. I’ll include it in a list for her and see if it appeals to her.

  12. Charlie says:

    I’m thinking yes to chick-lit, and romance too of course. It depends on what exactly she liked about those books, the relationships, the easy writing style, etc. I would always suggest Lisa Jewell as a good chick-lit writer, but the books are very different to 50 Shades, a bit more about life than love. Romance-wise you could try the famous authors, Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, and maybe Meg Cabot? I agree with those saying Twilight. That would be the logical next step, if easy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, Thanks for all the suggestions! I’m thinking Twilight might be the way to go. So many choices! I think I’ll let her decide.

  13. litlove says:

    Before Jilly Cooper got really famous with Riders and the rest, she wrote a series of six romance books that are actually really good (and very short). They’ are all womens’ names – Octavia, Emily, Imogen and others I’ve forgotten. They are funny and light and sexy, but not very motherhood-ish. I read The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill and liked that very much. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

    1. Jackie says:

      Litlove, Thanks for letting me know about the early Jilly Cooper books – I wasn’t aware they existed. I might get a copy out myself as with the back injury I can’t concentrate on anything too complex at the moment.

  14. Jenners says:

    Well, what about Twilight? That is what the Shades of Grey series is based on — it is fan fiction I think. She might enjoy reading “the source” (which I suspect is much better).

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I worry that she won’t enjoy the fantasy elements of Twilight, but I think it might be worth a try. I’ll let you know how she gets on.

  15. kimbofo says:

    That’s a lovely photo of you together :-)

    Jojo Moyes might be a good one… though her books are quite chunky.

    How about Maeve Binchy — I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love her books. Circle of Friends is a good one.

    1. Jackie says:

      kim, Yes. I used to love Binchy too. Aren’t they a bit chunky too? Will see if I can find any shorter ones.

  16. Gemma says:

    When God was a Rabbit is a very family orientated book and I flew through it and really enjoyed it. Maybe she’d like that?

    1. Jackie says:

      Gemma, Thanks for the suggestion! I enjoyed When God Was a Rabbit, but I worry it might be a bit weird for her. Not sure. One for the reserve list maybe?

  17. Erica says:

    Easy reads (in the best sense of the phrase):
    Cutting for Stone
    The Kite Runner
    Gone Girl (haven’t read this one myself)

    The Bronze Horseman
    The Sunne in Splendour

    Political, but also about a boy who loved his (very flawed) mother:
    In the Country of Men

    Girl power, and a good read:

    A book with a great big heart, but perhaps too political:
    Cry the Beloved Country

    1. Jackie says:

      Erica, Thanks for all the suggestions! By coincidence I’ve just abandoned The Bronze Horseman for being too light – I think she might enjoy that. Only problem is that it is a bit long. Why are all the best books chunksters?!

  18. JoV says:

    There are a lot of suggestions here already but I wanted to suggest Sophie Kinsella as your next best bet. You won’t go wrong with Sophie Kinsella. I love dark theme and serious stuff but Kinsella still make me laugh a lot! :)

    Hope your back is better now. Remember Health and Safety first and books second!

  19. Shar says:

    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Chinese American). It is an easy read. It is written in the voice of Henry who is 12-15 and then 56+. It is the romance of a Chinese boy and Japanese girl in 1942, before ,during and after the Japanese Interment in Seattle. The other main characters are White and Black Americans. It will pull you into the characters and you are hoping for a sequel when you finish it.

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