Sunday, September 14, 2008

For Sons That Read

I have heard that parents who read produce children that read. For awhile, I wasn't sure. I've always had so many books around the house that the kids practically tripped over them as they learned to walk. Laura, my eldest, was more of a reader than John and Ben, but none of them had the reading habit I enjoyed growing up.

Eventually, though, Laura has end up working as a publicist in the publishing industry. We don't always read the same books, but she reads. Right now, I know her reading list probably resembles mine at that stage of life: Solving your child's sleep habits, potty training manuals, organizing one's life with little ones around--and lots of magazines.

Ben's in college now, so much of his reading time is assigned for classes. Fortunately, from time to time, he reads material he wants to share with me. He has an assignment this week from a book of poetry (From Totems to Hip-hop, edited by Ishmael Reed) and told me he knew not to sell the book back at the end of the semester, since I would enjoy it.

John has a little more time to read now, and he has started coming to me for book suggestions. Recently, I passed along Ron Rash's Saints at the River. He went to his room and started reading. In no time, he had yelled downstairs, "Wow! This book sucks you in from the very beginning." I noticed when he left the house, he had it with him. Then one morning I had an email from him (sent from upstairs) that said he'd stayed up until three to finish the book. He said it was one of the best books he'd read and he thanked me for passing it along to him. I can't think of anything that's pleased me more.

That got me thinking of what books I would want to suggest to adult reluctant readers. I want to pass along something that will make a person want to find another one just as good when he's finished. Running through my own stacks, I've tried to think of several. This list is not complete by a long shot. It's just the beginning:

King, Dave. The Ha-Ha. The protagonist has lost his language ability from an injury incurred days after he arrived in Vietnam. He gets a call from an ex-girlfriend asking him to keep her son (not his child) while she's in drug rehab. The way he develops a relationship with the boy--and in turn with the odd mix of renters who share his home--without words makes for a tale well told.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. This was such a dark post-apocalyptic book, but somehow there was such a sweet glimmer of hope personified by the young boy in the story. It was a bleak, tough read, but in many ways very satisfying.

Brockmeier, Kevin. A Brief History of the Dead. This book presents an afterlife way station between heaven and the eternal hereafter where people remain until everyone living on earth who remembers them is gone. The parallel story follows a young woman who is exploring the Antartic region on a project funded by Coca-Cola. When their station loses communication, he partners venture to the next station looking for help, leaving her behind.

Olmstead,Robert. Coal Black Horse. During the Civil War, a mother has a premonition that the war is over and sends her son to retrieve his father. The novel traces his journey, where he witnesses a rape along the way, then one of the war's most brutal battles. You get two (maybe three) of the world's only plot lines: someone takes a journey, a boy grows up, boy falls in love with girl.

You'll note that I'm omitting some of the obvious classics (Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22). Those will stay around. I want people to remember that lots of new books are appearing on the shelves of bookstores now--good ones.


1 comment:

Gina said...

Can I brag on my little readers? Crispin read all the Harry Potters the second semester of second grade. Duncan loves to be read to, and is beginning to read now in kindergarten, and Liam (just turned 2) can tell me the plot of the Cat in The Hat.

You should be so proud of all the many writers and editors that you've taught. And now that we are all having little writers and avid readers of our own, it is amazing to see the love of all things literary grow exponentially.