Books for my friend with ADHD?
November 10, 2013 6:40 PM   Subscribe

She can read, but doesn't like to. There's been only one book that has captured her attention. Help me find more books that she will like!

My young friend has an aversion to reading because she can’t sit still for as long as it takes to hack through a book. There is one book that she loves, though, which is the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Over many months she finished the whole thing. She said it was full of such crazy interesting ideas that she couldn’t stop reading it. I’d love to introduce her to more books that she would like. (In part to help her get used to reading, as she’s on her way to college next year.) What other books are full of crazy interesting ideas??
posted by switcheroo to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Terry Pratchett's Diskworld novels might be right up her alley.
posted by colin_l at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2013 [9 favorites]

How does she feel about audiobooks? Is she able to pay attention to what she's hearing even if she's sort of busy doing something else? I feel like there are TONS of great audiobooks out there these days and they might be a good way to introduce her to authors she might not otherwise read. Perhaps if you get her started with audiobooks she'll be receptive to reading more of authors she enjoys. Amazon tends to have decent reviews of audiobooks.

Also, there's a lot of nonfiction that's written for a layperson, and if you pick a topic you're interested in, the books are filled with crazy interesting ideas. I like history, so for me, historical nonfiction books are incredibly compelling, especially if the events occurred within the lifetime of my great-grandparents. It kind of blows my mind to think about how far society has come since the the turn of the 20th century. I'm sure your friend is interested in things, and there's truly a nonfiction book concerning anything you'd want to know about. Nonfiction doesn't require the same suspension of disbelief that fiction does, so maybe she'd be more into it? From there, she could read historical accounts of the same topics, etc.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:03 PM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: I came in to recommend the Discworld books. My teen son with ADHD has read Wee Free Men a million times.
A good YA librarian would be able to talk with her and turn her on to some good books. YA books tend to be a quicker read-high interest, lots of drama, action, a little sex, vampires and steampunk and all that jazz! Get her to a library!
posted by Biblio at 7:06 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Surely she has tried to read the rest of the Hitchhiker's Guide books, then? Or other Douglas Adams stuff, like the Dirk Gently books?
posted by Coatlicue at 7:12 PM on November 10, 2013

I wonder if she might enjoy some Neil Gaiman. She could start with Coraline and The Graveyard Book (both technically for younger readers, but this older reader enjoyed them a lot) or skip straight to Good Omens and American Gods, which are a bit longer but sound right up her alley.

Orrrrrrrr... has she read any graphic novels? She could try Sandman!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:12 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How old is she? Still Life with Woodpecker captivated me in high school, but (like many Tom Robbins books) it has some pretty adult sex scenes.
posted by juliplease at 7:13 PM on November 10, 2013

I'm wondering about Tom Robbins. In a lot of ways he's not really easy reading, but the frenetic style and the rapid-fire philosophizing might suit your friend well.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2013

posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle? The new graphic novel version is pretty darn good.
posted by belladonna at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly? This is what Harry Potter is for. It has converted many a friend and family member into book lovers for me.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

Seconding Harry Potter, the flow from book 1 to 7 is so great because they start off very easy to read and get more involved as they go on.

Also, kind of out of the box, but does she like makeup or fashion or have any hobbies? There are tons of books out there which are guides to things that do require a bit of reading but can be flicked through, look at pictures, pick up and read for 10 minutes at a time. Could be a good precursor to a novel. I love makeup and fashion guides, even cookbooks for 10 minutes of reading here and there.
posted by Youremyworld at 7:21 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also: some geeks read Hitchhiker's Guide in high school and it Changes Their Life; for me it was Only Forward. It's got a similar absurdist/sci-fi tone (though with a bit more suspense and violence and a snarkier sense of humor), some appealing metafictional loopiness, and a whole slew of big deep ideas sort of smuggled in.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:23 PM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: It seems fairly natural that she'd enjoy the rest of the books in the "... inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy". You didn't mention if she'd read them yet.

Also, Douglas Adams wrote a couple detective novels: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem is also chock full of nutzo ideas, and funny to boot.
posted by cog_nate at 7:29 PM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: I have ADHD, and I also have a hard time reading book, especially long ones.

A couple of things I do, which help a lot:

1. I have a Kindle, and I have books on that. My local library also has numerous books on Kindle that can be checked out. I don't read them on the Kindle, but I do listen to the books a lot. Very useful on a long commute.

2. The other thing I do is have a subscription to the New Yorker magazine. It has non fiction articles on everything from Grateful Dead Taping Culture to Soccer Hooligans in Turkey to Emerging Evangelical Pastors to the Street Food of South Africa. The articles can be meaty, but they're rarely more than 10-15 pages long. My father, who also has ADHD, and I just adore the magazine, and we've had subscriptions for more than a decade now.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:35 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is not a specific book recommendation, but more a cultural one: does she know that it's okay to read a bit of one book, put it down, read something from another one, etc? There is a certain amount of unintentional cultural pressure that when you read, you ought to do the serial monogamy model: one book at a time, and no starting a new book until you finish the one before. I have ADHD, and it's a huge drag sometimes to feel like I'm tied to one book. Unless I'm in the midst of something really good I usually have several in rotation, including ebooks, print books, and audiobooks. Also, if something isn't keeping my interest, I drop it—no reason to keep reading a book you don't like.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:46 PM on November 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Can I add that pressuring her too hard might distress her? There's definitely a stigma out there (perpetuated by a lot of online folk, I may add) that says if you don't Read Books Seriously And Often it means you're a bad, uncultured and unintelligent person.

I have ADD, and reading a novel is more difficult and mentally exhausting than you can imagine. You read a sentence, a page, and then realize you have no idea what you've been reading for the past 10 minutes because you were thinking about something else. You read it again. OK, got that, but you can't remember which names are associated with which characters because you were distracted while you forced yourself through the exposition. And on and on and on. Now you get into it, and somebody texts you. Time to lose track for 30-45 minutes. Ok, finally back to the reading. Cat comes to visit and wants attention. Time to get distracted for another 30-45 minutes. OK, we're back to the book. Somebody turns on the TV within earshot. You're fucking done and you fling the book across the room. Seriously.

My girlfriend keeps pushing novels at me. I know she just wants me to understand things that she cares about. I can't get through to her how hard this is for me, but I try to read them at least a few times a year because I can tell this matters to her. I guess what I'm trying to say is feel free to make recommendations, but try not to frame it in such a way that your friend will feel like she's letting you down if she can't get through them.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:01 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was originally written as a series of radio plays, and later adapted into a novel. They fit into a larger story arc, but the story arc is secondary, so it was OK if you missed a couple episodes. The chapters can each be read independently.

So basically what I'd recommend are collections of short stories. Ursula LeGuin's Birthday of the World and The Compass Rose come to my mind because she's a really good science fiction writer and I've read them. But collections of short stories by different authors would be better. If she likes some of them, she can find more stories by the same author. And it doesn't have to be science fiction.
posted by nangar at 9:45 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi! Thanks for the answers! Yes, she has read ALL of the Hitchhiker series.

Audiobooks are good, she already listens to a lot more than she reads. TrialByMedia, that's a good point, and I've been making sure that I don't pressure her about reading books. So far we've mostly just talked about how I love books and she has a lot of trouble reading them, and I didn't bother her about it more than that because I know it's a sore spot. I'm hoping to give a gentle nudge by getting her maybe an audiobook and/or a paper book for christmas. (Also planning to put all the Hitchhiker radio plays on cd, I know she'll love that.)

Anyway, I was asking for books (rather than audiobooks) because I think it would be really good for her to practice reading with something fun, and hopefully she can start to like it a little more. But no pressure, I promise!
posted by switcheroo at 1:00 AM on November 11, 2013

The Giver, by Lois Lowry touches a lot of interesting ideas in an accessible way, maybe give her a copy?
posted by oceanjesse at 3:47 AM on November 11, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut, especially Cat's Cradle and the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House. I read those around the same time as Douglas Adams & enjoyed the dark humor and crazy ideas.

Short stories in general are a good option - a lot of authors have a collection or two that can give you a taste, and then if she likes it she can try a novel. Jeanette Winterson, Kafka, Stanley Elkin, Nabokov, Mark Twain, Pushkin and Victor Pelevin are options I can see from where I'm sitting and that I would recommend... But browse a short story section of a bookstore for stuff that speaks to her.
posted by mdn at 6:18 AM on November 11, 2013

Just to go a bit afield on the suggestions, might I recommend some writing by Robert B. Parker? (Spenser and such). His books were fairly short and very quick and fun reads, very dialog driven "page turners". I've been diagnosed with ADHD and have a perilously short attention span and have had no trouble reading through about 30 of them...
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:07 PM on November 11, 2013

Does she like rereading--in other words, would she like reading paper/electronic copies of books that she's already listened to? That way it doesn't matter if she skips around and reads her favorite bits or just skims it.

I've got ADHD and am an avid reader, and it tends to come out as either me not being able to get into any book I try or in me getting hyperfocused on something and reading it through in 1 or 2 sessions, and then reading all its sequels (if there are any) that fast. I'll second the Kindle/other ebook reader suggestion above because mine means I can skip from book to book and don't have to carry a stack of books around the house from chair the chair the way I used to.

Earlier this year I went through the Phryne Fisher 1920s mystery series by Kerry Greenwood. They're short, quick reads, and there seems to be an inexhaustible supply.
posted by telophase at 3:38 PM on November 11, 2013

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