13 Top Titles in Honor of National Read a Book Day

  • September 6, 2016

What to give non-readers to turn them into unabashed bookworms

Let’s say there are some non-readers in your life. (Let’s. Just. Say.) Is there anything you can do to turn things around? Yes! Give them something from this baker’s dozen list of great reads, and who knows? You may score a new member for your book club.

  1. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. I still don't know how Proulx made the story of a poor schmuck's redemption in hardscrabble Newfoundland so entertaining, but she did and won a Pulitzer Prize doing it! And it contains a great love story to boot. (The movie, by the way, with Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, and Judi Dench, was terrific.) ~Larry De Maria
  2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It’ll make you laugh out loud and then learn a little about humanity. ~Kitty Kelley
  3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’d give this book because it is full of the best qualities of humanity: about trust, about love, about risk-taking, and about memory. All things that anyone wants to have in life. And it’s funny and silly and humane. ~Linda Lear
  4. Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka. It's like watching a funny, sad, beautiful old Hollywood film and nobody, not even a non-reader, could resist reading the entire series. A great work of art and education. ~Y.S. Fing
  5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. So light, so fun, and so optimistic that it'll entrance even the most curmudgeonly non-reader. ~Chris Schneidmiller
  6. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. It is so silly that by the time you've noticed, you've read all 60 ridiculous pages. Sometimes, you need to start all over again to grasp what is essential! ~Joye Shepperd
  7. The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson. This closely autobiographical novel humanizes the people behind the headlines of the crack epidemic of the 1990s, drawing you in through the story of a mother and son who struggle to stabilize their lives in a sea of drugs, violence, and incarceration. The protagonists dispel the myth that you can’t be both erudite and street; Jackson had me running to Webster’s Dictionary and the Urban Dictionary at the same damn time. You root for his characters, hurt with them, and feel your heart break when they take a wrong turn, whether at the hands of fate or their own doomed decisions. ~Tara Campbell
  8. Any of the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse. Humor's deceptively hard, and even harder to stay relevant past its time. Wodehouse's series is still terrific and ties together a lot of threads (mystery, humor, a general sense of British-ness) that are a good lure for any reluctant reader. ~E.A. Aymar
  9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A totally compelling story with the fate of the human race at stake. I’ve recommended it at least a dozen times and it always elicited rave responses. (Mr. Card wisely kept out of the book his troglodytic political and social views.) ~David Stewart
  10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The endearing hero of this partly autobiographical and totally fictionalized life journal, a 14-year-old aspiring comic-book writer, offers a fast, funny, engaging read that opens a casually honest and wincingly heartbreaking window into contemporary Native-American life. And it gives readers some nifty illustrations (courtesy of Ellen Forney) to boot. ~Liz Robelen
  11. Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Set in the Everglades, this mystery is a hilarious "can't miss." How could it be otherwise with characters like a voodoo witch and her sex-addicted henchmen, villainous land developers, a brassy, happily widowed blonde, and our hero, who just happens to have a human arm in his freezer? And, of course, there's the monkey. ~Salley Shannon
  12. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Alternating between the perspective of a Jesuit Priest, a young First Nations woman, and a Huron chief, this novel evokes Canada's beginnings and intermingles faith and culture in an unforgettable way. ~Dorothy Reno
  13. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. The perfect gateway read. Raunchy, absurd, and hysterical, this story of a hapless everyman who finds himself battling both the underworld and garden-variety weirdos in the Bay Area is testament to the notion that books don’t have to hurt to work. ~Holly Smith
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