“The gap between a voracious reader and a non-reader is just one good book.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Like it is in all the cases, the toughest step in starting out the reading journey is the first step. Someone who has never read a full book always feels that they could never complete one if their lives depended on it. They would claim that they wouldn’t remember the characters, not understand the language and completely forget the plot from the first few pages by the time they reach about the 20th one.
As someone who has encouraged people to take up reading often, here are a few common recommendations that I make to get them started. Making them keep their apprehensions and excuses aside is actually the biggest challenge, but once they do, these books will do the magic. Of course, there are more recommendations on the internet but these are the ones I have personally read.
1. ‘Swami and Friends’ by RK Narayan or literally any other RK Narayan books.
Indians have most certainly heard of RK Narayan or at least have heard of his best creation ‘Malgudi days’.
Narayan is a writer who connects straight to the hearts of Indian readers. He uses rural India as his plot and curates stories that every Indian can relate to. His language is not two advanced but not too basic either, which makes him a perfect pick for a beginner who wants to actually understand the intensity of the process of reading but doesn’t want to be thrown off by it.
Any given day I would recommend any of RK Narayan’s books, especially Swami and Friends, The Printer of Malgudi, The English Teacher, etc.
2. ‘Going Solo’ by Roald Dahl or any other Roald Dahl books
You will certainly have heard of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – the famous movie where Johnny Depp plays the lead role. But you may or may not have heard of the creator of the story, Roald Dahl, whose book by the same name the movie is actually based upon. Roald Dahl is a children’s author who writes quirky, funny and indulging stories in a very simple but captivating manner. Going Solo is actually his autobiography from his days as a soldier. The story of a soldier could easily be a daunting one but Roald Dahl makes it an extremely fun read. For a first time reader, it is an ideal pick to make sure that he or she easily completes the book without being shaken by the complexity of it.
3. ‘Daddy long legs’ by Jean Webster
‘Daddy Long Legs’ was actually one of my first books that I read pre-high school. It was a curious pick from one of those scholastic catalogues that used to come to us at school. And ‘Daddy Long Legs’ was actually the first time I experienced the urge to complete a book without actually putting it down. Whenever I had to put it down I found myself drawn back to it as if I had to complete it or the story would move on without me.
‘Daddy Long Legs’ is an epistolary novel, which means that it is a story narrated through a series of letters. A girl writes to her supposed father/benefactor who she doesn’t recognise initially. She goes on explaining her life in those letters in the most indulging manner in simple yet not too basic English. For a beginner it will certainly be a worthwhile experience, providing a glimpse of the literary genres out there.
4. ‘The great Train Journey’ by Ruskin Bond or any other Ruskin Bond books
Ruskin Bond’s stories are legendary. This book is a collection of 14 short stories that will make you understand the hype surrounding his stories. He encapsulates so many emotions, especially those connected to childhood, and makes adults nostalgic. Ruskin Bond is an author not to be missed.
The Great Train Journey has a main story starring a protagonist named Suraj who usually loiters around and finds himself at the railway station often. The story conveys the message that we all must take our time to pause and savour the simple delights of life. It is a simple, endearing book that is easy to complete.
5. ‘The White Tiger’ by Arvind Adiga
This winner of the Man Booker Prize might actually throw you off a little bit because the plot and the story are considerably intense in nature. It narrates the life of a driver who hails from a dramatically poor background and discovers the many facets of city life and ambition, in quite twisted ways. His journey is documented in an equally intense manner but using rather simple language that keeps the reader hooked to the book till the end. The protagonist tells his story in first person. You will want to know what happens to him so you will make sure that you complete the book. The White Tiger is an intense choice for a first time reader but it can you get started well.
[Something about The White Tiger movie here]
6. ‘The Magic of the Lost Temple’ or ‘The House of Cards’ by Sudha Murthy
Sudha Murthy’s creative genius is almost surprising, given her general demeanour. Her stories, especially ‘The Magic of the Lost Temple’ has an element of simple delight. The books are extremely easy to connect to and flow beautifully.
‘The House of Cards’ is the story of a lady named Mridula. There are no major twists and turns or dramatic plot that makes us go wow. However there is this signature style of writing that Sudha Murthy swears by in her books that eases the reader and ensures that we complete the book.
7. ‘The Prodigal Son’ by Daniel Steele or any other Daniel Steel books
Daniel steels books have a certain classic quality to it. She creates enticing stories and puts them in plots that a reader can easily connect to but writes them in a way that you cannot predict the ending. They are simple easy to understand but captivating enough to make sure that a first-time reader will stick to it till the end.
Prodigal Son is the story of two brothers one of whom returns to his hometown after a long time. A dramatic encountering follows and the story is good enough to hang on until the end.
[Read more here]
Once you are done with these books or similar books of the sort you can then move on to a little advanced books that are actually indulging because they are exceptional stories. To name a few:
- Sherlock Holmes series: This one’s a world famous mystery series that will get you addicted.
- Chronicles of Narnia series: This was my initiation into the supernatural world. I couldn’t get enough of the books, and the movies too.
- Harry Potter series: I don’t assume I need to give an explanation to this. Harry Potter is the Holy Grail of modern day literature.
- Jane Austen classics: These books are mostly recommended for literature enthusiasts but they are excellent choices if you want to expand your reading scope.
- Books by Khaled Hosseini: Khaled Hosseini writes the most touching novels based on real-life circumstances. Prepare to feel a little bad about the world we live in.
- Shiva Trilogy by Amish: Amish’s interpretations of Indian scriptures and characters that we grew up learning about are by far the most respectful and interesting.
- Dan brown books: Better not get me started on these. I’m a shameless, die hard Dan Brown fan. I live for the plots he adopts and the twists he gives in his novels.
These books mentioned above are all from my personal experience. I have read every single book that I have enlisted in this article. Of course there are so many more that I would add to the list but since this is specifically for beginners, we’ll leave it here.
A bonus tip
I do not intend to sound like an elitist snob but it is advisable to steer clear of the popular authors such as Chetan Bhagat, Ravinder Singh or Durjoy Duttaa during your initial days as a reader. I am not making any claims about the quality of their writing. This advice is only being made because such writers have a quality that makes us get used to that particular genre from where developing a taste for other genres might seem more challenging than it actually is. Of course, once you get used to the process of reading and make yourself comfortable with different genres you can experiment with any author of your choice. The literature world is your oyster.