I’m no expert or specialist when it comes to reading. All I know is I like to read and I find it simple to do. I have however often wondered whether one’s reading culture comes naturally or is it something that is nurtured.

I grew up in a home full of books, for my 5th birthday I was gifted with the Complete Works of William Shakespeare so I would say it was inevitable that I would end up like this. But then I look at my sisters, they are not readers nor do they pretend to be. Begs the question, Nature vs nurture?

A friend of mine asked me to recommend a book for her to read as a beginner (by beginner I assumed she meant pleasure reader). To her it might seem like a simple question to ask someone who reads a lot but it is quite the opposite, I mean where do I begin?

When I was a lot younger my reading comprised of Goosebumps, Animorphs, Terry Pratchet, Artemis Fowl with the occasional abridged version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. Gradually while in high school I moved on to unabridged versions of classic literature, George Orwell, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe and everything else that was on the prescribed list.

So when someone asks what they can read as a beginner it’s a difficult question to answer because what I read at 5 or 15 years old is different from what I read today. What do I prescribe?

I can’t say for certain that xyz books are the best for those who wish to become pleasure readers but there are a few tips I can give that make reading, pleasure reading easy and fun for me.

  • You must want to do it. You’re not going to get through any form of reading if you first of all don’t want to read.
  • Read something that interests you. It takes me the longest time to get through self help books because I just can’t stand them. I never finished The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for example. If you like a particular genre of movies or series say Vampires, find books about those topics. Some people love reading about world war history but would never pick up a Harry Potter book. Find what suits your specific taste!
  • Set time aside to read. I like to read when I am on the road. In the mornings and evenings on the way to and from work is the best time. Or when travelling long distances. I also do a bit of reading just before bed.
  • The book is always better than the movie. If there’s a particular movie you’d like to watch and it is based on a book. Read the book first.
  • Read books that you can relate to. Of late African literature occupies the bulk of my reading list. The main reason is because they are books about things that I can easily identify with, places that are familiar to me, things that I have experienced. It makes the reading experience much more interesting.

Those are some things that I think can help a “first time reader” pick out a good book to read.

I felt obliged to give my friend a response and as someone who reads I felt it shouldn’t be an question I fail to answer. Three books came to mind:

The first, Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read this when I was in high school at a time when television, video games and the dismal pursuit of girls consumed most of my spare time. It was so good I read it twice in one week.

Chimamanda is essential reading for everyone I think. What makes this a simple read is not only is the storyline captivating and flows with much anticipation, but as an African one can easily identify and relate to the characters. Also once you’re hooked on her first novel you’ll only crave the others, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck and Americanah. She is contagious!

The second book I recommended was George Orwell‘s Animal Farm. Not only because it is a classic, well actually because it is a classic. Animal Farm is a must read. It expertly depicts the nature of man and how power and influence change him. How something so pure and noble can be corrupted and how the innocent and industrious suffer the most.

It is also a short book roughly 150 pages depending on the edition and simple to understand and read. There are instantly likeable characters such as Boxer and some you just love to hate such as Squealer and then those you outright can’t stand, Napoleon.

The third book I recommended was The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The  book is always better than the movie. I read this book last year and was blown away. It was a quick read but also an emotional one. Despite cancer and death being such a melancholic topic this book was not all heart-wrench.

John Green managed to fuse the misery of inevitable death with humour, passion, and also love. It certainly is a beautiful read and one highly recommended to readers of all levels of expertise.

I hope this is helpful to those looking to kick start a life in literature. If you are looking for something else to read beyond these three I wrote a post on 10 books you HAVE to read because I have! Once you’ve found your groove and are up a level or two conquer that list.

For those of you at “expert” level here is the #2015ReadingChallenge

Happy reading all!

(Please do share any reading tips you might have or any books you feel would be good for beginners)