What to Read if You Struggle to Read

By Friday, October 02, 2015 , , ,

So you’re not that into reading, are you? Can I beg your attention for a bit? I have good news for you. There’s more room for you in this world than you may think. When you were young, it’s possible that your schooling cultivated the belief in you that reading is a chore instead of a pleasure and a gateway to worlds of useful knowledge. I’m genuinely sorry if that’s the case. Or maybe you read slowly or have difficulty focusing, so you think there’s no way you can catch up. Or maybe you just think there are very few books that will interest you. All of these situations are common explanations I hear for an aversion to reading. But as I said, you are not the only one who has this struggle, even though it may seem like the rest of the world consists of compulsive readers like me. And believe me, you do not have to read compulsively or be an avid fan of Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray to be a better reader. Yes, reading requires more effort than Netflix or movies, but the rewards are far greater. Reading stimulates the mind, broadens your vocabulary, improves concentration, and is an entrance to fascinating worlds and information. I want to suggest that you might not hate reading as much as you think you do. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book, maybe you’re still harboring old prejudices against reading because of that one awful English teacher, or maybe you just need to be more open-minded about what you’re willing to try. Bookworms like me want to help you out! Will you let me? I have suggestions for where to start if you’re a reluctant reader. Click here for some general tips on how to read better, then click back over for some book suggestions to get you started! 

Photo Credit: Freeimages.com

Done? Good. Here we go. For all of the below suggestions, I’ve tried to keep in mind common problems many people seem to have with reading: concentration/pace, interesting subject matter, and comprehension difficulty (keeping track of story and characters, language style, etc.). I’ve found that all of these frustrations can be remedied if the book is an engaging story with strong, memorable characters and plot lines that are easy to follow, and I think all of these books deliver that. 

1. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Ever heard of Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights? The Disney movie Aladdin is one of many spin-offs and adaptations that have come of the Arabian Nights story, and Shadow Spinner is another. At the center of this book is the most well-known aspect of the Arabian Nights legend – in a Middle Eastern kingdom rules a moody Sultan who kills at the slightest whim. He’s notorious for executing wives from his harem after just one night with them. But then he marries Shahrazad, who agreed to marry him with a plan to save more women from death. Every night, she begins telling the Sultan a story, and every morning, he spares her life for another day if the story is intriguing enough that he wants to hear the rest. But after a thousand and one nights, she is starting to run out of stories and enlists the help of Marjan, a young girl who is taken to the harem after a chance encounter with Shahrazad. Marjan takes on the life-threatening task of sneaking from the harem to go into the town and find more stories from strangers and famous storytellers, and then bringing them back to Shahrazad, hoping against hope that each night, she’s found enough to keep Shahrazad alive for one more day. As you may expect, it’s highly suspenseful, and it also gives an interesting glimpse into ancient Middle Eastern culture. Though the names can be somewhat difficult, the characters are memorable enough to keep them straight. I read this for school in middle school and loved it. 

2. Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers
If you’re a girl, even one who doesn’t usually like to read, you still may have read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and loved it, and for good reason. It’s compelling and rich and intriguing. But I’m surprised at the number of people I meet who have read that one but never bothered to read anything else by Francine Rivers. Lesson of the minute: if you like a book, find out what else that author has written, because there’s a good chance you’ll like other books by him or her too! Authors’ styles don’t generally change a ton from book to book, so if you like one, you’ll very likely enjoy another! Herein lies this suggestion of the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. These are just as good, if not better, than Redeeming Love in my opinion and in many others’ opinions I’ve heard. Please don’t be scared off by the fact that it’s a trilogy. Just start with the first one, A Voice in the Wind, and see how it goes. Set in ancient Rome shortly after the life of Christ, the series begins with a young Jewish girl named Hadassah who is taken captive from her homeland in Galilee and sold as a slave to a Roman household. Her owners, the Valerian family, are also major players, and the story makes Roman history fascinating if anything does. Concurrently, there’s another plot line running that focuses on a young man named Atretes who’s kidnapped from his savage tribe and brought to Rome to train as a gladiator. The two storylines eventually intertwine dramatically, and they’re full of suspense, love, betrayal, war, miracles, and so many valuable pieces of wisdom. Francine Rivers knows how to drop nuggets of truth and they’re all over the place in these! These are serious page-turners and I’d bet money they can hold just about anyone’s attention, even if you have the worst concentration and slowest reading pace of anyone you know. 

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I’ve recommended this one before, and it remains a childhood favorite. It’s simple and delightful with an air of mystery and coming-of-age theme. It begins with spoiled, selfish young Mary Lennox, a girl who was born in British India, but then sent to live with her rich, eccentric uncle in Yorkshire, England after losing her parents in a cholera outbreak in India. Once she arrives at her uncle’s estate, Misselthwaite Manor, she begins hearing strange rumors of a locked garden on the grounds and becomes convinced that someone, somewhere in the house, is crying mysteriously at night, even as the servants avoid her questions about it. As Mary determines to solve the perpetually growing mysteries of the house, she also learns to look outside herself and slowly makes friends where she never would have expected it. Children and adults alike can appreciate the surprises and quirky characters of this book. If you missed out on this one when you were young, do yourself a favor and go read it now! 

4. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen
This is another Middle Eastern story that I read in middle school and really enjoyed. Maybe the history unit that year was on ancient Arabia? Who knows, but this book definitely made it interesting! It centers on Buran, one daughter in a poor family of seven daughters. She’s the most educated of the sisters and determined not to remain quietly at home and marry the person she’s instructed to, as her society would have her do. With her father’s permission, she disguises herself as a boy and leaves for a distant city to make a fortune to help her family. Once she arrives in the big city, she establishes a successful business and is able to help her family significantly. But it so happens that the crown prince of the area frequents her business, and much against her will, Buran begins falling in love with him. But if she reveals she’s a woman, she could lose everything she’s worked so hard for. Quite the pickle, and I remember being very eager to see what would happen next, plus, it’s highly educational in an entertaining way. You get so caught up in the story that you don’t even realize how many valuable things you’re learning along the way, which quite often the best way. 

5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Oh, Narnia. I talk about these here and there a lot, and I hope most would agree rightfully so. I can honestly say that my soul is refreshed whenever I return to these stories. I shudder to think of a world without these classic children’s stories of C.S. Lewis! I’m constantly in awe of his ability as a storyteller and theologian. The Narnia stories are fit for any age – the magic and vibrancy of Narnia’s mystical aspects are thrilling in a special way for the younger, and though the magic ought to never lose its power as the reader grows older, a mature audience also starts to notice the deeply spiritual references that run in every book. These books are easy to read. Really, really easy. The stories are simple, fun, and highly adventurous, and the spiritual metaphors are powerful. And we shouldn’t fear being childlike, even if that means slipping for a time into a fantasy world of talking animals and dryads and magic spells. C.S. Lewis wrote in great defense of fairytales and has wise words for those who might dismiss them as mere child’s play: 
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

The Narnia stories are just wonderful and that's all there is to it. They'd probably be my first recommendation for someone who struggles to read. I can't say enough good about them and want everyone to experience the joy of them!

So there you have it! My list for the reluctant reader that will hopefully make you a little less reluctant. And I'd also just add that it's important to be open-minded. If you're determined to be discontent or frustrated or picky about reading, it's probably not going to be as enjoyable. Broaden your horizons and be willing to try new things! You never know what you could end up loving! Hit me up if you want more suggestions for a specific genre. Book recommending is seriously one of my favorite things.

Photo Credit: Freeimages.com

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