When you are coming back to reading after a long absence or starting to read for pleasure for the very first time, trying to answer the question, “where do I start?” can be overwhelming. As an adult I haven’t always been a reader. During college and particularly in my 20’s I carried books with me from place to place but I certainly didn’t read as ferociously as I do now, so when I encounter people who want to read, but don’t know where to start I offer the following places depending on interest and time constraints. There is nothing ground breaking here, but the following categories offer a place to try something new, no matter where you are along your reading journey.
Middle Grade Books
Hear me out! If you haven’t been reading consistently, or if all you have been reading is heavy, dense non-fiction for school or work related subjects, give yourself a break and dive into the plethora of middle grade books that cover a wide range of genres, topics and meaningful emotional arcs. The hope here is that these books will whet your appetite for reading. They are meaningful plots without heavy world building or overly graphic circumstances or situations.
You may find this is your happy place, but with the writing level, style and size of narratives you should be able to read one of these books from a day to a week and hopefully fall in love with reading and the power it gives your imagination to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a while.
I suggest browsing at your local library or bookstore their middle grade books selections. Depending on your interests, here are some of my favorite reads:
- The Barren Grounds by David Alexander Robertson
- The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
Perhaps middle grade books just aren’t appealing or you have read a few and are ready to sink your teeth into something a little heavier. The Young Adult section is a great place to find yourself. Particularly if you like serial narratives. The YA world of 2020’s is all about the series. You will be hard pressed to find many books that stand alone (there are some, just not the most popular). You can find everything from modern fiction, to sci-fi, mystery, thriller and fantasy.
Again, give yourself the gift of browsing your local library YA section and you will discover some incredible cover art, so it will be worth it! But below I have outlined a couple of options that I have enjoyed from multiple genres within YA writing:
- The Raybearer Duology by Jordan Ifueko
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- The Weight of Stars by K. Ancrum
Not everyone enjoys browsing the younger reader sections and maybe they just don’t appeal. If you do not like a coming of age story, definitely shy away from the Middle Grade and YA section. No matter the content and genre, they are all mostly coming of age stories. Haddi for instance detests all teenage protagonists. She tries and I give her credit for that, but they are still teenages and if written well with teenage emotions and decision making capabilities, not for everyone.
If you find yourself in much the same boat, then perhaps you do need to start with adult fiction and as a new reader, or coming back to reader I highly recommend what I usually call “pulp” fiction or “grocery store” fiction. These are novels you can pick up at your local store and they are blockbusters and everyone is talking about on social media. Most of their authors produce two to five books a year and they are meant to be read quickly, easily. Page-turners.
- Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhorse
- The Wedding Date by Jasmin Guillory
- Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- The Cartographers by Pen Shepherd
There are new reader who simply DO NOT connect to fiction and though I personally do not relate, I know you exist and some of my favorite people like to only read non-fiction. The non-fiction genre can be difficult to navigate for the newbie because it can be difficult to navigate for the seasoned reader. There is SO MUCH out there to read and such great research and topics, memoirs, history, science, religion, art, sociology. The quantity is overwhelming and you can seriously find yourself reading some wonderfully written non-fiction or not.
So here are a few options in a couple different genres of non-fiction that I think are written well for a new or returning reader. They aren’t excessively long or dense and you may even find yourself laughing or crying from time to time:
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- Evicted by Matthew Desmond
- Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
- Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Department Store Poetry
Last but not least, I have to talk about poetry. If you are looking for an emotional connection with limited time commitment, pick yourself up a book of department store poetry. It makes me so happy that poetry can be found in just about any book section these days and I am a proponent of starting where you start. Here are a couple of popular poetry books that you might find a nugget of gold within!
- Watering the Soul by Courtney Peppernell
- Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
- Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel I & II by R.H. Sin
- Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward