It seems that people don't like to read literature because they think literaure is complicated, dull, and not connection to real life. English classes in school may contribute to this belief. Many people have had instructors who use their favorite texts in classes. Of course, teachers want students to like them too. Unfortunately young people, middle-aged people, and old people tend to resist on principle what is forced upon them. It's human nature.
When my son Bub was in middle school he would not read. Do you hear me? Nothing. That boy wouldn't even read a comic book. So I read Letter From A Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King aloud to him and some Langston Hughes poetry. I was taking an African American literature class at the time and I had an anthology. He had never heard any of it before and he liked it. He seemed to have an interest in American realism and history. So I wondered what he would think of the Easy Rawlins mysteries by Walter Mosely. The boy was hooked. He has read the whole series.
Anthologies are good because they contain different kinds of writing from a variety of authors. The stories are shorter so less time commitment is required. There is a good chance there is something in an anthology a non-reader of literature would like.
Most of these books are from classes I took in college. I recommend:
- Classic Irish Short Stories Compiled by Frank O'Connor.
- The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1899-1967 Edited by Langston Hughes.
- The Norton Anthology By Women: The Tradition in English Edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
- Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction Deanne Mansfield-Kelly and Lois Marchino.
Another thing that helped a few non-readers I know is to listen to literature read aloud. Several months ago we lost power for a day and I read "Sweat" by Zora Neale Hurston to Jake. He loves when I do funny voices. He especially liked this part:
"We oughter take Syke an' dat stray 'oman uh his'n down in Lake Howell swamp an' lay on de rawhide till they cain't say Lawd a' mussy.' He allus wuz uh ovahbearin' niggah, but since dat white 'oman from up north done teached 'im how to run a automobile, he done got too biggety to live--an' we oughter kill 'im," Old Man Anderson advised." Read whole story here.
So now Jake knows he likes Hurston. Whether he would ever read it on his own I don't know, but my experience with Jake and Bub makes me wonder if some people could be persuaded to read more literature if they enjoyed hearing it. That's another blog post.
I just want people to read. It is best to expose people to different kinds of literature and writing in a format that they enjoy.