Book recommendations for an inmate
March 29, 2016 10:01 AM   Subscribe

My brother went to jail last week for a controlled substance charge (meth), though he is only in jail until a bed opens up in the county rehab program. I need recommendations for books/magazines I can mail him.

He is also a new father (he has adult children, and the mom in this case likely also has drug issues and it's not clear if the baby will get to stay with her biological parents, but that is another askme). So there's a lot going on in his life right now. I don't know my brother very well, but I plan on writing him letters and would like to send him some reading material.

Things I know my brother is into: fossils, rocks, weather, tinkering, outdoors. He has always been pretty good at fixing things and makes these fairly awesome creations out of basically trash on the street (think repurposing furniture, cobbling together bikes from random parts -- and yes, some of this was likely meth-fueled, but he has always been artistic with making things). He also has struggled with alcohol and other drugs for many, many years and I think some of the underlying issues are anxiety and depression. This will be his first stay in rehab, though. I'm torn between sending him light reading and heavier stuff, like spiritual books or CBT books. I do know that he is not a reader, so shorter books or magazines are probably best. I'd appreciate any recommendations.
posted by megancita to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
There are likely a lot of regulations on what you can send him (content, materials) that you should check before you start sending stuff.

This previous question has a lot of great suggestions that might suit your brother as well.
posted by phunniemee at 10:05 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Into Thin Air (a mix of spiritual-ish reflections and adventure story)
posted by salvia at 10:25 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah, I also want to add that he is into maps and speaks some Spanish.
posted by megancita at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2016

As someone who has spent a lot of time personally and professionally around books, my opinion is that if someone is "not a reader" as an adult, they are unlikely to be wooed by reading at this point in their life. That's not to say there isn't material he will enjoy, but it might be misguided to try to send him novels or narrative non-fiction, even though that might be what seems appealing.

If I were in a similar situation, I might try something a little out of the box, like some graphic novels. Rust is a pretty neat series and might appeal to his mechanic interests.
posted by LKWorking at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fiction: Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog are great. Both books are a series of short pieces about Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con trying to get his life together. I used to work with young men who were not readers, who hated reading, and most of them really got into these stories.
posted by mareli at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2016

Just want to chime in to reiterate to carefully check the content and delivery regulations; my sister is in jail and books have to be delivered directly from Amazon, can't be hardcover, and can't have "inappropriate" content. When she was in a county rehab, she wasn't allowed to have any books that were not directly related to recovery (but I think they let her keep a CBT workbook I sent her.)

I also disagree with the above poster regarding people who are not readers; there really is not a lot to do there and my sister (who I don't think owned a book before she went away) now reads a lot. Sometimes she and my mom read the same books so they have something to talk about other than jail when my sister calls her, so if there's a topic you both might be interested in, you could read the same book simultaneously. This would give you something to talk about in your letters and give you a way to connect with him.

I'm of the opinion that fiction is best for jail because it provides a level of escapism, and recovery/spirituality/12-step stuff is best for rehab because he should be focusing solely on recovery there. I think short story collections could be good as they don't take up a huge chunk of time in case he is frequently interrupted and he can dedicate discrete amounts of attention without feeling overwhelmed.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 4:02 PM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Prison will make him a reader. There isn't much else to do.

Into Thin Air is a great suggestion. I just read The Run of His Life (Jeffrey Toobin), and that was pretty compelling as well.

The key is to find books that will last a while but will also appeal to him. I'd send a few and see what he thinks.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:04 PM on March 29, 2016

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything - actually, he has written several books that might be appropriate.
posted by she's not there at 9:35 PM on March 29, 2016

For his interest in making things:
Popular Mechanics
Make magazine
Woodworking or other technical magazines

There are a number of outdoor magazines, I think one is actually called "Outdoors" :)
posted by duoshao at 5:01 AM on March 30, 2016

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