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Question: One Book Everyone Should Read?

Question: One Book Everyone Should Read? post image

I have to say, being unplugged from blogging is both liberating and depressing. I love having time to read and hang out and not worry about the blog, but I also miss writing about books and keeping in touch with all of you.

I’m not quite back from being unplugged just yet — my plan is to “officially” be back on Sunday — but got inspired for a short post thanks to a Twitter conversation this morning about The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.

Both Care (Care’s Online Book Club) and Jeanne (Necromancy Never Pays) said The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down was a book they wanted to read because I’ve been so enthusiastic about it. Enthusiastic is probably a nice way of putting it — it’s a narrative nonfiction book that I’m a little bit evangelical about.

See, nonfiction can be very topic focused, which means a particular book could be well-written and interesting and engaging, but not work for someone because the topic is so far off their radar. I’m a reader that loves learning about a huge variety of things, but not everyone is like that.

When I read and recommend nonfiction, I always try to think about the topical-ness of the book — whether I think the book is so good anyone could enjoy it or whether it’s better for an audience already interested in that topic.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down squarely falls into the “anyone could enjoy it” category. It’s one of those universally awesome books that has become my default nonfiction recommendation for people who are nervous or skeptical about reading nonfiction. I think it is that awesome. In fact, if I had to pick just one book that I would want everyone to read (or just try to read), then this would be the book.

Which brings me to my question: What is one book (of any genre) that you wish everyone would read?

Also! Don’t forget to nominate your favorite books published in 2010 for the Indie Lit Awards! I’d love for more nonfiction nominations, but any will do.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Memory December 3, 2010, 4:35 pm

    I’m always leery of recommending books to “everyone” for just the reason you mentioned–a topic that pushes all the right buttons for me might not thrill someone else.

    I do wish everyone would read TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay, though. It’s a literary sort of fantasy, so I think it has strong appeal for both genre and non-genre readers. It deals with subjects like grief, terrorism and the persistence of memory. It’s beautifully written. It’s epic, but it’s also personal. It’s about as close to an “everyone” book as I’ve ever read. And it’s my favourite book of all time, so I want to share the love with as many people as possible. 🙂

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:13 pm

      Memory: I’m leery about it too, which is probably why I wouldn’t ever actually tell everyone to read this book. but I always wish people would try it, because of what you mention – the love I have for it that I want to share with lots of people!

      I haven’t read of Tigana, but have read some Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ll have to look for it.

  • Trisha December 3, 2010, 4:57 pm

    That is such a wonderful question. I am constantly thinking about this issue as I’m a literature professor and every year pick out new books for my students to read. As they are rather diverse, it’s hard to choose five from the millions of possibilities. I’m going to steal suggestions from the comments to this post…. 😉

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:14 pm

      Trisha: I would never want to pick books for students – it must be so hard to find things that you can teach from and that will hopefully appeal to your students! I enjoyed most books I read for class, if only because I appreciated them after the discussions.

  • softdrink December 3, 2010, 6:09 pm

    I think I second this book every time you mention it. I do think it’s a bit dry in parts (but just a few parts), but I think the discussion of cultural misunderstanding is so important that I forgive the author 🙂 and continue to recommend it.

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:15 pm

      softdrink: There are probably some dry parts – just about all nonfiction has at least a little bit – but for the most part, I thought this one was awesome. Plus, like you said, the discussion is thoughtful and important for people to read about.

  • Ash December 3, 2010, 10:21 pm

    One book everyone should read? That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with Middlesex, although I realize not everyone will love it.

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:16 pm

      Ash: That’s an interesting choice! I did enjoy that book, but I can see why people wouldn’t.

  • Heather Pearson December 4, 2010, 2:59 pm

    I highly recommend I love you Forever by Robert Munsch. It is a children’s book but that doesn’t dismiss it from adult reading. I just found out recently that the author wrote it help deal with the lose of his first two children . It still makes me cry every time I read it.

    It’s also a good book to give your kids when they are ready to leave home, get married, or start their own family.

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:17 pm

      Heather: Wow, that sounds like a powerful and sad book. I hope that my library has a copy.

  • Erin December 4, 2010, 5:00 pm

    Hmm…I can’t think of a single book I’d urge everyone to read. I came in contact with so many hugely varied reading tastes working in a bookstore that I came to the conclusion there’s no book that would satisfy everyone. It’s a really interesting question, though, and I’m sure I’ll be pondering what book would be good for everyone to read, whether they enjoy it or not!

    As for The Spirit Catches You, I picked up a copy not long ago and haven’t gotten to it, though I think it will be in the next few nonfiction titles I read!

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:32 pm

      Erin: I do think it’s a sort of unfair question, since I supposed in real life I’d never actually tell everyone to read a single book. But I do like to ponder on it, since as you say, sometimes books are good to read even if they’re not enjoyable.

      I hope you enjoy The Spirit Catches You… when you get a chance to read it!

  • Colleen (Books in the City) December 4, 2010, 8:20 pm

    The Spirit Catches You is excellent – I read it years ago but it has stayed with me. I would recommend Mountains From Mountains by Tracy Kidder – the book moved me and is inspiring!

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:33 pm

      Colleen: Yes – I totally agree about Mountains Beyond Mountains. I think that book is inspiring as well!

  • Jenny December 5, 2010, 9:59 am

    I don’t think there’s anything I wish everyone would read. There are books I wish MORE people would read, but I know that anything I love in the world would be completely not enjoyable to some people. :/

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 2:35 pm

      Jenny: That’s a good distinction – more people versus everyone. I know lots of the books I loved wouldn’t work for lots of people, but I do think The Spirit Catches You has a better chance that others that I like 🙂

  • Jeanne December 6, 2010, 1:40 pm

    I don’t care if the book I think everyone should read is enjoyable to each person; I want them to read it and then tell me why they hate it, if that’s the reaction! My choice for this would still be Nick Harkaway’s under-acclaimed first novel, The Gone-Away World. You will never meet a narrator like his.

    I’m still working on suggestions for don’t-miss books from September, and Tigana is on my list (along with, of course, The Spirit Catches You)!

    • Kim December 6, 2010, 9:29 pm

      Jeanne: I like your attitude. I’ve never heard of Nick Harkaway, but now I am going to investigate.

  • Vasilly December 6, 2010, 7:05 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this question since you left this post. I cannot think of one book I’ve read that everyone can love. What does that say about my reading preferences?

    I can think of one book that most people will enjoy: Perseoplis by Marjane Satrapi. I can’t imagine someone not liking that book.

    I’m going to add The Spirit Catches You to my TBR list for next year.

    • Kim December 6, 2010, 9:30 pm

      Vasilly: I don’t think everyone would love The Spirit Catches You, but I do think it’s important to read. I agree with you on Persepolis – I thought that was a very good book.