01/12/2011

LITERARY BLOG HOP - WHAT WORK OF LITERATURE WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T LIKE LITERATURE?

Literary Blog Hop
This interesting, thought-provoking monthly blog hop is hosted at The Blue Bookcase . It's my second post in this regular event joining book bloggers and fond readers (the first one is HERE) . It's a good occasion to share thoughts on reading literature, to discover new blogs and bloggers and to learn something new. This month's question is...


What work/s of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature? 

1. To read or not to read,  Ay, there's the rub !

When someone says he/she doesn't like literature in my experience it generally means they don't like reading very much. Because if you like reading novels for instance, if you are fond of reading  fiction, what you look for is  ... words , beautifully written words,  which all together make up a story. Stories is actually what you look for. And inside those stories emotions, feelings, thoughts, adventures, lives and people you can rely yourself to and sympathize with. How can you not love literature then? 
What would I recommend to someone who says he/she  doesn't like literature but actually  doesn't like reading? I can't answer. First I should know them, at least a bit. Recommendations are meaningless if you don't know tastes and dispositions, likes and dislikes of the person you recommend something to. 


2. Knowing the victim of your enthusiam

So one of the secrets is to try to discover what your literature-shy friend/acquaintance is actually interested in, fond of . Then you should find a literary text which can encounter their needs, dreams, likes, their hidden side. You know, I collect several "victims" a year  and from a very miscellaneous crowd of potential ones. 
I know them as a "species", not indiviadually.  I analysed the new trends in their tastes / interests watching and listening to them carefully and , year after year,  I have shaped my own very instinctive technique to win them. Well, not all of them, but some of them and that's already a great goal. What am I talking about? Simply one of the hardest tasks in my job: making my  teenage students  like reading literary texts.

3. Getting someone into it

Finally, if you are an "affabulatore" (in my own language, Italian), that is,  a good story-teller (but you must be a very good one) you can even influence those tastes, likes and dislikes. You can even make someone who hates literary texts or science fiction or romances accepts your recommendation to start reading just those books they say they don't like. You can lead someone just ... into it.  Well, that's my aspiration. That's what I'd like to be. Not in order to manipulate minds  but only  to give those minds  the joy they refuse to experience. 

My favourite affabulatore: Alessandro Baricco, Italian author and performer

4. Do you want to answer this question or not? 

Yes, I know I have avoided doing it so far. Which literary texts would I recommend to anybody telling me he/she doesn't like reading literature? If I have to give an answer, I'll try.
 Of course, I'd mention them my favourite authors and books. 

1.  Any one of Jane Austen's novels  if it were   a recommendation to a sensitive, intelligent  girl who could appreciate subtle social satire, wit and irony, stories of friendship and love
2.  Elizabeth Gaskell's social-issue novels (North and South, Mary Barton, Ruth) if it were someone - man or woman - commited in social questions. 
3.  Jack London's Martin Eden if it were someone somewhat idealistic, a contemporary utopian dreamer
4. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury if it were a recommendation to someone loving science-fiction, technology, mass media
5.  Ian McEwan's Black Dogs if that someone were interested in history

These are the first 5 which comes to my mind, but I must stop. I tend to be very talkative, let's say unrestrainable, when dealing with things/people/ facts I love. And that's terribly wrong when you want to convince someone.  Rule one: avoid to overwhelm them with your enthusiasm making them feel you don't appreciate their ideas or underestimate them as people because they don't share your interests. 

What about you and recommendations?  Do you consider it an easy task? What book would you unequivocally recommend to literature-shy friends? Why?

23 comments:

Angela said...

I think you have pretty much covered the good recs, I would recommend Jane Austen's Persuasion, I think its a pretty universal theme about being given second chances, we have either received them or wished we had.

Jane Eyre would be another recommendation for me as although its 19th century literature, it is written in a way that is not so dissimilar from a more contemporary book and I found it very easy reading.

North and South is a bit of a tricky one, I mean I have not read an Elizabeth Gaskell novel that I didn't like, but some people find her too dry, (shock horror lol)

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Angela
Gaskell ...dry? Well, since I recommended her to someone intellectually committed to social issues, that should be a good match, shouldn't it?
Thanks for visiting and commenting
:-)

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

I would try giving something more contemporary to a person who's not that much into reading. Jumping into classics can be a bit overwhelming, the "old" language, the atmosphere... Something more straightforward that they can grasp quickly and identify with easily. Oh, and it should not be a thick book, that may scare them away. Start light. :)
"Fahrenheit 451" is a beautiful book and one of my favorites. I would definitely recommend that.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Delia
Fact is, Delia, that I tend to prefer classic literature from the past. So you're perfectly right. I've read many 20th and 21st century Italian authors (Italo Calvino, Elsa Morante, Alberto Moravia, Cesare Pavese, Tiziano Terzani, Alessandro Baricco, Nicolò Ammaniti, Roberto Saviano and many, many others) as well as international 20th and 21st century authors (Isabel Allende, Nadine Gordimer, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, E. M. Forsters, J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath , Nick Hornby, Ian Mc Ewan, and many, so many others). But, I don't know exactly why, if someone asks me to talk about/suggest/recommend a book, it's always one from 18th century that comes to my mind. More precisely, it springs from my heart :-)
I agree with you as for avoiding "thick" volumes!
Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

Oh I love classics too but I have to remind myself that not everybody does. :)
If I may make a recommendation, have you read Don Juan, by Josef Toman? It's a book well worth your time.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Delia
Thanks for your suggestion. I'll check it out.

Trudy said...

Although it's American literature, a more contemporary classic I love is "To Kill a Mockingbird."
It's not complicated to read and has themes that resonate in the middle of this complicated, crowded world - one of which is standing up to your own individual convictions of right/wrong.

Christine-Chioma said...

I really like how you broke it down depending on people's personalities. It's true that a lot depends on the individual. But overall I think that "Peace Like a River" is one that people from all walks of life and interests could relate to and enjoy.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Trudy
I must make up my mind and read this novel. So many people love it!
@Christine-Chioma
Never heard of this one. I'll check it out, I like to discover new titles and new authors.

Thank you both for visiting and commenting.

Anonymous said...

I've never been far away from Austen or the Brontes - for disparate reasons.
However, it does depend on person. Some historical novels are very literate and tell engrossing stories - Mary Renault or Dorothy Dunnet?
If the person is of of a social/feminist bent - perhaps Doris Lessing?

fitzg

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@fitzg
Thanks for contributing to the discussions.
What I was thinking while reading your comment is ... in the last two years I have been reading stuff of so many different sorts and for very different reasons. If someone had told me I would read those books just a few months earlier, I would have laughed. How's that possible? The answer is ... Blogging! I've virtually met so many new people who read,love,write books and I was practically caught into their enthusiasm. I've started reading fanfiction, historical fiction, regency romances for fun or to review them but went on studying and teaching my beloved classics at the same time.
Suggestions and recommendations have succeeded in my case!

LBC said...

Great post. I am also in the business of recommending literature to skeptical teenagers and young adults. I think you are right on point when you talk about good storytelling. That is what drags most readers in, even if they are kicking and screaming. I disliked Jane Austen a lot in my own young adulthood, but like her now. However, I do always find a handful of literature-shy young women, who make an exception for her. I would also say that McEwan's Atonement would be a good one.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I loved the way you broke it down. I think I struggled a bit with the distinction between someone who didn't love 'literature' and someone who didn't like reading. Are they the same or are they different?

If someone didn't like reading, I'd probably just leave them alone. Everyone's different.

But if they were a popular fiction reader and a bit wary of the 'heavier' stuff, that's when I would think about who they are and they're interests and then maybe make a recommendation.

julienne said...

Like you, I'd recommend a book depending on the person's personality. But the books I usually talk about are the Lord of the Rings, Persuasion, North and South, and the Narnia books.. so basically, I might recommend fantasy or children's books, and maybe some short stories for those who have short attention spans.

CHE said...

I share your views on recommending books based on the person. What works for one may not work for another. I picked Jane Austen too but forgot to include Gaskell. She's a great pick too.
Glad to find your blog through the hop.

Jillian said...

I love your answer -- your suggestion that it can be a slow process of getting to know the person and winning them over to literature. Also your warning not to overwhelm, and certainly not to belittle them for not sharing your views.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@LBC
You are right! I loved Atonement,it was a great read, even better than Black Dogs (which is a very good novel) now that you remind me! And thanks for the sympathy, we know how difficult it can be to convince a teenager to read a book. It's pretty much easier with adults.

@Becky
You won't think I'm looking for an excuse if I remind everybody that I'm Italian and I'm sure my English must sound awkward to native speakers most of the time. But I'll try to make my point clearer. I meant, in my experience people who don't like literature are also people who don't like readers. I don't know any people who read popular fiction but never literary texts. Most of my friends and acquaintances are colleagues (teachers), librarians or professionals and all of them love reading and read different genres, literary texts included. Ehm... maybe I didn't make it clearer, did I? ;-)

@Julienne
Lord of the Rings is an engaging tome and not at all easy. Some of my students love that saga and asked me to teach Tolkien instead of , let's say, Dickens or Shakespeare. But I should read it first and ... blushes ... I really don't feel like doing that. Not my cup of tea. But... guess what? I've started reading The Hobbit! Maybe I'll face the huge task of reading TLOTR. I've never read Narnia either but Persuasion and North and South are my best favourite novels of all time!

@CHE
You're welcome! Glad we share an interest for Austen and Gaskell.

@Jillian
Thanks for your kind comment. It's always a great pleasure to find new people who share my same interests.

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting.

Parrish Lantern said...

well reasoned response & I like your Bradbury choice, although to be honest Austen's novels are going to put just as many individuals off reading, as they will encourage others.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Parrish Lantern
That's why I wrote about knowing the person you suggest the book to. I'd never suggest Jane Austen to anybody. Especially because I love her!
Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment!

mel u said...

great post-I would just say the Gaskell pick I would make is Cranford-short, funny, quirky, great characters-

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@mel-u
I've read it only recently, but yes, Cranford is a great, amusing read.
Thank you!

Red said...

Love this post! I think you're right that when making any recommendation it's important to know what the person likes. It's hard to pick out a book that will be a hit with everyone, but at least if you know what the person is interested in you can steer them towards some good lit.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

Hello @Red!
Welcome back on Fly High and thanks for your lovely comment :-)