Sometimes I feel as if I need to grab people by the shoulders and shake them while screaming, “but you HAVE to read
this book!” This form of persuasion usually overtakes me after hearing someone say, “I don’t read (insert some genre).”
If you don’t read a particular genre (romance, fantasy, mystery, military, sci fi), how could you possibly know if you’d like it or not? Isn’t refusing to try something from a different genre a bit like a child who refuses to taste broccoli before deciding he doesn’t like it?
Some people love broccoli and don’t need to be convinced to find different ways to prepare it. No matter its shape or form, they always come back for more. On the other hand, I respect that there are some people who have tried broccoli and decided they hate it. The taste, the texture—something about it just doesn’t sit well with them.
It’s the ones who have never tried it, the ones who have never given it a chance who frustrate me. When those refusenicks say they hate broccoli, it makes me incredibly sad. Okay, a bit mad too, but mostly sad. They simply don’t know what they’re missing.
When faced with people like this, it’s good to have a list of go-to books to suggest. These are the books, in my opinion, anyone would love, no matter their genre preferences.
Romance: The highest selling genre out there by far, and yet, there are millions who refuse to read it. Perhaps they can’t look past the old fashioned broccoli flavored book covers with long haired Fabios and bodacious women with ripped bodices. To those people I say, read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The time traveling romance is smart, engrossing, and historically accurate. Not to mention it’s just plain fun. It’s one of the few romances that seem to have a male following as well as a massive female audience. The best part is, Starz is bringing the books to TV this fall and there are plenty of books in the series to keep you engrossed.
Fantasy: Frankly, refusing to try fantasy boggles the mind. If we read to escape, than fantasy is the epitome of escapism. I could say, if you’ve never tried fantasy, you have to read anything by Tolkin, but that’s too easy. I’m going to get a lot of pushback on this one, but the must-read for me is Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon series, starting with Temerarie. It’s sweeping, it’s a unique and interesting world and there are lots and lots of dragons; dragons so large, entire squads of soldiers ride them like tanks into battle. Temerarie, like all the dragons in this series, talks, and what comes out of his mouth is fascinating.
Mystery: This is my genre so I’m a bit partial to it. There is a massive library of mystery out there filled with classic authors that I admire. I could say anything by Christie, or Chandler, Grisham or Doyle (as in Arthur Conan, not me). But I’m going to stick my neck out and say, if you’ve never read mystery, you need to give Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a try. Sure it starts slow, but once you get into the meat of the story you can’t put it down. The multiple story lines, the mystery that seems impossible to solve and the brutal nature of the crime make this the one I’d turn to.
Military: Again, this is my genre. As a veteran, I love reading a lot of stuff about men and women in uniform, which is why my books combine military with my love of mystery. While I think my protagonist is a soldier anyone can relate to, the book I would recommend to the non-military genre folks out there is James Clavell’s King Rat. Clavell is known for his sweeping China exploration saga, Shogun, Taipan and Noble House. King Rat is much different than those, taking place in a brutal Japanese prison camp. From the first page, the reality of this prisoner of war camp hits you in the face. It’s a short book, but an engrossing one.
Sci-Fi: The definition of this genre seems to grow broader by the day. From space travel to living in post apocalyptic silos, there are a ton of story types that fit the sci-fi family. In my opinion, you need a bit of space travel or aliens to be sci-fi, otherwise I consider it fantasy. With that in mind, if I wanted to convince someone to try the broccoli, I’d have to go with John Steakley’s Armor. This is a classic, so the old fashioned cover usually has some kind of hokey looking alien with a cartoony soldier done up in over-sized armor. You need to look past the appearance of the broccoli to get to the nutritious goodness. Armor is almost two stories in one, both of them equally satisfying. The soldiers at the heart of this book are the great guys next door who get pushed to their limits and survive. I have always wished there were more books in this series, but the author died while working on the second book.
What books would you recommend to someone who refuses to try a new genre?