My sister who rarely reads has come to me for book suggestions. Please help me suggest books that might make her a lifetime reader.
August 16, 2007 12:33 PM   Subscribe

My sister who rarely reads has come to me for book suggestions. Please help me suggest books that might make her a lifetime reader.

My 19 year old sister just finished the Harry Potter series and is now miraculously interested in reading more books. She has never been a huge reader, and I feel like this is a great opportunity to introduce her to the wider world of literature.

I am trying to come up with a short list of books and book series that she would likely enjoy, so I'm leaning toward easier reads (a la Harry Potter), and steering away from any of the older classics. I'm looking for well written books or, as in the Harry Potter series, good storytelling. The books don't necessarily have to be fantasy, but I think fiction is better than non fiction.

So far, I'm thinking of the following books:

1. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I would really appreciate any and all of your suggestions. Help me turn my non reading sister into a book nerd like her brother!
posted by Paul KC to Writing & Language (73 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Dhalgren by Samuel Delany would totally be a fit.
posted by xmutex at 12:36 PM on August 16, 2007

She might really enjoy the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
posted by iconomy at 12:36 PM on August 16, 2007

IMHO Ender's Game is not a good suggestion, sorry, I can't see it turning someone onto reading.

I have a friend who went from being a 20 year non-reader to a fairly avid reader with "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"
posted by Cosine at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2007

Terry Prachett's Discworld series is really entertaining. I'm enjoying the heck out of them myself.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest some Pratchett - not his earliest, which is a parody of fantasy novels, but his later stuff - either the Guards books or the Witches books especially, depending on her tastes.

If she likes horror at all, she might like some Stephen King. It's easy to get used or at the library, and he really is more a story-teller than a writerly writer.

FWIW, I'm a voracious reader and I hated Ender's Game. I'd skip it unless she's already into spacey / hard sci-fi in other media already.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:47 PM on August 16, 2007

I've seen the Artemis Fowl series recommended a few times in response to similar questions. I'm halfway through the first one, and I enjoy it.
posted by inigo2 at 12:47 PM on August 16, 2007

The Pirates! books clip along at a steady pace, full of amusing asides and cartoonish characters. I think they'd hold her interest pretty well, without taking a whole lot of time or intellectual commitment.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:51 PM on August 16, 2007

So far I'm the only person I've ever met who was actually ticked off by the end of Enders Game. The "Series of Unfortunate Events" are pretty good books, fairly easy.

I also really, REALLY liked "Lamb" by Christopher Moore, excellent for anyone who's not Evangelical.
posted by TomMelee at 12:54 PM on August 16, 2007

Lots of libraries have made reading lists like this. If you google "if you liked harry potter" you'll find a lot of them (this works for other authors too). I think Orson Scott Card is tough because some of this stuff is great and some is really ungreat so tread carefully there. I also got into shorter serieses like the Lemony Snicket books. She might also just enjoy looking at a lot of shorter fantasy type stuff to see what she connects with. I've really enjoyd the Firebird anthology series -- Firebird and Firebird's Rising -- which are great anthologies geared towards a young adult audience but pretty good reading for any age and not at all kidlike.
posted by jessamyn at 12:56 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would highly recommend "the Dark is Rising" series by Susan Cooper. It's fairly well written and an engaging story across all the books. Also: it involves an adolescent in modern times dealing with some magical stuff. It can be pretty dark, so I always thought it was for OLDER young adults, but mostly I love its entertaining-ness.

On a totally separate note, she might try Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. It was the first book that made me laugh out loud while reading it AND I couldn't put it down because I wanted to find out what would happen next. This book pretty much invented the modern English comedic novel. Which is pretty cool.
posted by indiebass at 12:58 PM on August 16, 2007

Please do not recommend Dhalgren to your sister. While it's an infinitely better book than all of the HP books combined it is in no way a good choice for someone whose major exposure to reading is Harry Potter.

Consider The Earthsea novels (especially the first trilogy) by Ursula LeGuin. They're well-written and really interesting. They're also short, which can be good.

I also agree that Pratchett can be fun, but his early novels are actually a bit boring, and so his later novels are probably better. I liked Going Postal a lot.
posted by OmieWise at 1:02 PM on August 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

The Hitchhiker's Guide books. Can't say it enough.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:06 PM on August 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

With all due respect to xmutex, you'd really really want to take a peek at a copy of Dhalgren before you hand it to someone who rarely reads.

You want accessible. Kids finishing Potter have also recommended Dark Materials (the Pullman trilogy) to me as a follow-up.

I'd start her on proven oldies-but-goodies.

The Hobbit, etc., JRR Tolkien
Dune, Frank Herbert
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
The Shining, Stephen King
posted by sacre_bleu at 1:11 PM on August 16, 2007

Seconding avoiding Dhalgren! My god, what a way to turn her off from whatever you may suggest, if not reading in general! (OK, not really. But it's a rambling book that you're never sure is going anywhere, not a plot-driven new–reader friendly sci-fi piece!)

I've heard good things about Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series. It's aimed at "young adults" but, I think, more in a Harry Potter way than a Kid Who Only Hit Homers way. Sort of mystical; deals with "real-life" people/events/things.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good Omens! Super funny and just fun all around.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2007

Ender's Game has turned several non-readers into readers that I am personally aware of.

The Hobbit is excellent but forewarn that they need to stick it out through the first 50 pages before they get hooked.

One of the first "grown-up" books I ever read was Andromeda Strain by Crichton. Not sure how it holds up over time, however. Hmm, might have to dig that one out and take it for another read.
posted by trinity8-director at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2007

I liked Ender's Game. And I hated The Golden Compass, so ymmv.

Diane Duane's Young Wizards series is pretty good (start with So You Want To Be A Wizard?). They may be a little bit young for her, but you never know.

Earthsea is a good recommendation.

Patricia C. Wrede is good--try Sorcery and Cecelia.
posted by anaelith at 1:21 PM on August 16, 2007

Get her the whole His Dark Materials trilogy, no just the first one ;)


Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny

American Gods, Stardust, et all, Neil Gaiman

Books of Magic, a graphic novel series, about err, a boy who's a magician, wears round glasses, and, uhm, has an owl.. (also N.G)

Actually, introduce her to Graphic Novels. She'd probably also love Fables (Bill Willingham).
posted by Andorinha at 1:24 PM on August 16, 2007

One of my friends who was *proud* that he didn't read much got sucked into my Tony Hillerman mysteries. They're fun.

Also, seconding the Gaiman.
posted by notsnot at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2007

Chuck Palahniuk and Douglas Adams.
posted by knowles at 1:27 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff is a post-apocalyptic YA that I enjoyed quite a bit a few weeks ago (and I'm not "YA," by any stretch :).

Connie Willis is good--The Domesday Book would probably shatter her (in a good way).

I will continue to give this some thought.

(Not to start anything here, but she may find it a bit easier to relate to female leads as a new reader. I know, there are many exceptions to that, not least the Potter books themselves. As a fairly unsophisticated reader, though, having that connection might make it a little less tough to ease into some stories. Flame away, I suppose.)
posted by thebrokedown at 1:31 PM on August 16, 2007

Tamora Pierce has been a lifelong favorite of mine, and I'm not really that seriously into fantasy (though I too loved Harry Potter). Her stuff is aimed at teenage girls, but I know a lot of grown women (and men!) who love them. The books are all pretty easy reads, and some are aimed at a bit of a younger crowd (namely, the Circle Of Magic and Protector of the Small series, which were the only ones I couldn't get into). The Song of the Lioness series is just wonderful, though, and also aimed at slightly older readers. They're really the beginning of the whole thing, though the various series can be read in any order. My personal favorite is the next batch, Wild Magic (also called The Immortals), which takes place in the same universe and includes many of the same people at a later point in time. Finally, the Trickster duet also involves many of the same characters (and children of characters) and the same world, and the Terrier series deals with their ancestors. It's really a fun set of books, and can keep you entertained for quite a while. Pierce has been writing these for a long time, and she's still at it, but she's had the sense to move between characters every two to four books so that the material stays fresh.

Oh, and seconding Dune!
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:36 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Kinda Tolkienesque, but less academic and more pulpy: Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" books are decent. My only complaint is that there's no overall conclusion yet, after his 10th (?) book!

It's hard to wrong with Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, if she can accept the idea that our language changes over time. Some people I know can't get over the Russian loanwords and speech idioms.

And, from above, the "Series of Unfortunate Events" of Snickett, perhaps.

That's one fantasy, one sci-fi, and one kids-fantasy, to cover your bases.

Oh, I too think Ender's Game is a great book, but it may be too dark for her, in the "Speaker" chapter. It's one of the few stories that can make me cry, it's so sad. Beware.
posted by cmiller at 1:38 PM on August 16, 2007

notsnot: seconding Tony Hillerman's books. While I haven't kept up with his output in recent years, when I was in high school I ate them up like mac n' cheese. Which you can imagine was very fast.
posted by indiebass at 1:39 PM on August 16, 2007

I've known plenty of 19-year-old girls who didn't know what to read. They responded well to Francesca Lia Block's books.
posted by mjao at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials books, which always come up on Harry Potter Recovery lists...with good reason.

I see Neil Gaiman have already been mentioned -- I'll take that a step more specific and suggest his novel Neverwhere, which gives a whole new meaning to "London Underground."
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:51 PM on August 16, 2007

My 17-year old Harry-Potter-lovin'-but-reads-nothing-else brother LOVED Haruki Murakami's new novel After Dark. Like stayed up all night reading it loved it.
Other than an unexpected cheerfulness, After Dark is classic Haruki Murakami, featuring themes of loneliness and alienation, carefully crafted characters, Western references (such as an all-night Denny's where Hall & Oates plays in the background), and distinctive magical-realist twists of fate. Critics also praised the impassive, omniscient narration, like a constantly shifting video camera, which renders each scene in magnificent detail. The chief complaint was the brevity of the novel, and the Los Angeles Times felt that Eri's dreamlike scenes missed the mark as well. "For the unfamiliar, it's the perfect appetizer. For the established fan, it's a quick work that is over far too soon" (Denver Post).
Also, get her signed up at the library!
posted by mdonley at 1:56 PM on August 16, 2007

Seconding jessamyn's 'If You Liked Harry Potter...' suggestion. I used various IYLHP lists when trying to track down a book for another AskMe post, and the suggestions on most lists are for books that have the same flavor and depth of character as HP books. Not that you don't want to expand her horizons too, but some of the books on the lists are fantastic, and much better than HP.
posted by iconomy at 2:01 PM on August 16, 2007

I read a good bit of YA stuff (and everything in between). I second How I Live Now by Meg Rusoff and Lemony Snicket. The Thief Lord By Cornelia Funk is good. Christian parables aside, The Narnian Chronicles by CS Lewis are pretty incredible, just tell her to skip The Last Battle.
posted by kimdog at 2:03 PM on August 16, 2007


No seriously, she's the perfect age and the plotting isn't that dissimilar (though superior) to the Potter books. The language also isn't difficult.
posted by bonehead at 2:11 PM on August 16, 2007

Also, the Pratchett to start with is Wee Free Men, possibly his best book ever. It was deliberately written for new readers, is written a bit lighter that the "main sequence" discworld books, and doesn't have the weight of history that his umpteenth book about Ankh-Morpork does. Is still a discworld book, has Death and the witches in the background.
posted by bonehead at 2:15 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

People are different. For example, your sister may not like fantasy. I agree with the Pullman but if she sees fantasy as silly then give her a different option. I used to like True Crime and Jonathan Kellerman novels but got burned out on those. I read all of Mary Renault, Barbara Tuchman and the Sir Peter Wimsey series. I read all Neil Peart's travel books in the past 2 years and recommend those. How about Carl Hiassen's novels set in Florida? Those are screamingly funny. How about Gregory Maguire's "Wicked"? If she likes music, I recommend Joe Jackson's "No Cure For Cancer". Then there's early Le Carre...or how about the 2 major Caleb Carr novels? One thing I cannot stand is reading about people who get into predicaments they should have avoided and the entire book goes thru with them while I'm mentally YELLING at them to STOP THAT and YOUR PROBLEMS WILL GO AWAY. So if she might be like that avoid books about idiots.
posted by andreap at 2:16 PM on August 16, 2007

Snowcrash; one of the heroes (in addition to Hiro Protagonist) is a young pizza delivery girl called Y.T.; a strong, streetwise female character that she may be able to relate to. Besides, there's just the right mix of cyberpunk and wit to keep her interested (and she'll find examples of the concepts in the book everywhere!).
posted by parilous at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ender's Game would be my first suggestion too, it was definitely pivotal multiple people I know. Actually, I came into the thread to recommend it before I saw you'd already thought of it.

Another book I'd recommend highly is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's a great page-turner that's very much like a more sophisticated Harry Potter.
posted by jacobm at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2007

When I think about the books that made me love reading, they come mostly from my "young adult" years:

- Monica Hughes (esp the Isis trilogy, Devil on my back & The Dream Catcher, Invitation to the Game)
- Gordan Korman
- JRR Tolkien
- CS Lewis (Narnia series)
- Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in TIme)
- Isaac Asimov - anything, but esp. Foundation trilogy
- Stephen King, esp. the Gunslinger series
- Jane Yolen (the Pit Dragon trilogy)
- Piers Anthony (Xanth series)
- Terry Brooks (Shannara series)
- John Belairs

everyone one of these authors left a strong mark, to the point where the images from their books are still with me today, maybe 10 or 15 years later, and may well be for the rest of my life.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:18 PM on August 16, 2007

Nthing How I Live Now and Lemony Snicket.

Diana Wynne Jones is also great. My favorite is Witch Week (very Harry-Potter-esque, boarding school setting, magic, etc.) and that could quite easily kick her into the other Chrestomanci books. Jane Yolen's Wizard Hall is in the same vein as well.

Yolen's Armageddon Summer is not fantasy, but an absolutely gripping story of two teens in a religious cult.

China Mieville's UnLunDun is spectacular. Witty, sad, punny, inventive, simply marvelous.
posted by fuzzbean at 2:18 PM on August 16, 2007

Summerland by Michael Chabon.
Sophie Kinsella's books are strangely engrossing chick-lit. I'm embarrassed to say that several of my friends and I got totally sucked into them.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:20 PM on August 16, 2007

Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Easy to read, fast, and mysterious enough to get you buying the next in the series.

The Handmaid's Tale. Easy, and didactic in the way people that age often are inspired by.

The Bluest Eye
. Short Toni Morrisson, a good choice for turning her onto really beautiful prose.

The Hitchhiker's Guide
or Lullaby if you think lulz are a good hook. (I do, I love funny books.)

I liked the Series of Unfortunate Events, but they're not the kind of thing that catapults you into books, because they're such a novelty. I found Artemis Fowl too juvenile and find Piers Anthony just mind-numbling dorky. Dhalgren and Neuromancer are both quite dense for a noob like this. Jane Austen can go fuck herself as far as I'm concerned. The last thing modern girls need. Pift.

2nd Narnian Chronicles, but The Magician's Nephew is bar none the best one!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:27 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just remembered what I was into at that age, I think I ordered these all from that summer.

The Last Unicorn, The Princess Bride, Get Shorty and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2007

(I love a good adaptation)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:32 PM on August 16, 2007

I'm going to second Diana Wynne Jones since her writing is a tad more sophisticated than Harry Potter but is still in the same genre.

Perhaps Howl's Moving Castle as a taste since that stands on its own.

And then there are the genres well beyond youth fantasy. ;-)
posted by Ky at 2:34 PM on August 16, 2007

Beauty, by Sheri S. Tepper, is an engaging and ingenious meta-fairy-tale.

And I enjoyed Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:42 PM on August 16, 2007

While I liked The Golden Compass, I grew increasingly annoyed with the later two books. So I'd call that a mixed bag.

I will recommend Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, as well as Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy.
posted by fings at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2007

I love Dune. It's my favorite book of all time, but for somebody who doesn't like to read? I would strongly recommend AGAINST Dune. That really requires the reader's attention.

Gaiman is good. Somebody already mentioned American Gods. I didn't like Neverwhere myself, but that might be a better starting place. Maybe Andre Norton's Witch World books if you can find them at the library.

How about the Narnia books? Or, maybe Wizard of Oz?
posted by willnot at 2:49 PM on August 16, 2007

I'll have to second the Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series - very dark, from a similar perspective, but with good writing, good storytelling, and they're very hard to put down.

Neil Gaiman's books are also very good - I'd start with Stardust, not simply because of the movie, but it's just that good.

Beyond that... take her to a bookstore or a library and show her how to ask the folks there. The whole teach a man to fish thing.
posted by greenman at 2:58 PM on August 16, 2007

Oh yeah, when I said Stephen King's gunslinger series, I meant to say The Dark Tower series. And let me second the Hitchhiker's Guide series.

More suggestions:

Bestselling authors, like Stephen King, tend to produce fun and accessible reads:
- Michael Chrichton, esp. Sphere, Congo, Jurassic Park.
- John Grisham
- Tom Clancy

or maybe some nice thick classics! the writing style can be a bit dense at first but once you get into them, you read till you're done:
- Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Les Miserables
- A Tale of Two Cities
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- Crime and Punishment
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:59 PM on August 16, 2007

Anne McCaffrey, the Pern series. It's not male centric, there's pretty dragons, it's a good long series, and Anne wrote other books to get into after the series is done. I think the age level pitched is juvenile or young adult, so it's quite easy to read.

I think some people are missing the point. If you loved reading when you were a kid, you'd soak up any good story. Asimov, for example, great stories, but hard worker for the irregular reader. Unfortunately too, a lot of sci fi just doesn't have female characters except as a stereotype, and after Hermione, that would suck.

I loved (still do) Ender's game, but again, can't recommend it for a non-profilic reader. I've tried both my teenage kids on it and the response was really blah.

My 15yo daughter is currently zooming through Stephen King's early books (Cujo, the Shining etc) , and she loved (yuck) Virginia Andrews Flowers in the Attic series for a bit. Recent EXCELLENT book she brough home was Perks of being a wallflower. Short book but fascinating.
posted by b33j at 3:01 PM on August 16, 2007

"The books don't necessarily have to be fantasy"

When I was that age, my dad passed along a copy of John Updike's "Rabbit Run," and I subsequently devoured the whole "Rabbit" series like I had Judy Blume a decade before.

I'm not sure how that affected my early-20s relationships, but I learned a lot about middle age and how I would not like to live as an adult...

Also: "Life of Pi," and Kurt Vonnegut - "Cat's Cradle" is a good starter.

And definitely not the aforementioned "Crime and Punishment." Sheesh!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2007

This is really tough to do without knowing what else your sister is into or what she wants to get out of reading. Don't be surprised if she doesn't like any of the titles listed here and only reads chick-lit or romance novels (not that there's anything wrong with a good bodice-ripper).

Devil Wears Prada
The Second Assistant
The First Assistant
Reading Lolita in Tehran
American Gods
Anansi Boys

Eric Jerome Dickey writes great African-American fiction
George R. R. Martin writes great fantasy
Joe Hill writes great horror
Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake write great silly crime novels
Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark also writes great serious crime novels
Lawrence Block also writes great hard-boiled PI novels
posted by infinitewindow at 3:15 PM on August 16, 2007

This is kind of hard, as I can't even remember the last time I was a non-reader.

That said, I find it hard to believe that anyone over the age of 14 would like Ender's Game. Card's a pretty crap writer, when you get down to it, and it's like Peirs Anthony or Anne McCaffrey— if you don't read 'em when you're young and stupid, you should avoid 'em when you're older. (The Outsiders shares this problem).

That said, the first Hitchhiker's Guide is good, the Zelaszny and Asprin Bring Me The Head of Prince Charming is great, Daniel Pinkwater's easy reading (and something that I wish I'd read when younger), especially Young Adult Novel and the Snarkout series. Neil Gaiman writes novels for shit (and I'd be instantly suspicious of the literary taste of any adult who recommended them), but don't underestimate the pull of his comics. In fact, comics might be a decent way to get her to read more in general.

On the sci-fi tip, Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles are rightly classics, and Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld is really good (well, the first one is really excellent, the other couple that I've read are only kinda fun), as is his Dayworld series. Narnia is good (other Lewis books can be a bit of a slog). William Goldman, author of the Princess Bride, is excellent, even in things like Heat, a genre pulp detective novel. (Alongside that, I'd recommend Jim Thompson books if you think she might like darker pulp fiction). Kobo Abe's Ark Sakura is really excellent, as is The Pornographers (whose author I forget). I'd also recommend Paul Auster's City of Glass or Oracle, both are really strong and fairly easy to keep up with (kinda). Emmanuel Carrère's The Moustache is really good, and keeps going well.

There's also the option to suggest short stories, which I find to be more managable. Bradbury, again, or an anthology called The Dark Descent might be nice. Or Blow Up, Julio Cortezar's collection.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on August 16, 2007

If you want to stick with the fantasy/"sword-and-sorcery" area I'd recommend David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon series - great (if somewhat stereotypical) stories and characters but very, very readable.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2007

the Pratchett to start with is Wee Free Men
posted by bonehead at 5:15 PM on August 16

Diana Wynne Jones is also great. My favorite is Witch Week (very Harry-Potter-esque, boarding school setting, magic, etc.)
posted by fuzzbean at 5:18 PM on August 16

Quoting to second.

If she likes Wee Free Men, try her on Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy, which stands alone (not Discworld) and, though a bit long, no longer than the seventh HP book. They're a similar reading level and I think would appeal in the same kind of way. For one, they're set in our world, but with a twist (gnomes are real!).
posted by joannemerriam at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2007

Ooh, Cat's Cradle is a good suggestion. I tore through Vonnegut when I was in middle school— maybe she'd like 'em. They've got good, easy prose.

And on that, Hemmingway wins too.
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2007

As a 19 year old girl who loves HP:
Eragon - Christopher Paolini (maybe a bit long, but a thousands times better than the movie)
The Tomorrow Series - John Marsden (actually, just about anything by John Marsden)
Space Demons/Skymaze/Shinkei - Gillian Rubenstein
Chuck Palahniuk's books
posted by cholly at 3:23 PM on August 16, 2007

Not sci fi or sword buckling fantasy, but short, well written, and featuring engaging protagonists: Life of Pi and Coraline.

She might do well with books later adapted into movies/tv: in addition to the already mentioned Stardust and Series of Unfortunate Events: The Princess Bride, Jim Butchers' Dresden Files series, Michael Connelly's Blood Work (and his Harry Bosch series).
posted by jamaro at 3:36 PM on August 16, 2007

The Crimson Petal and The White! Oh is it good. "Dickens with the sex put back in" indeed. Sugar's a great anti-hero.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:51 PM on August 16, 2007

Sounds like the fantasy bases are mostly covered here. Pullman is the go-to next step, in most cases. There's a decent chance she's not really a fantasy reader, though. The siren song of Harry Potter lures all kinds.

Really good non-fantasy (worth a look even if she does like Pullman, et al):
Life Is Funny
Hard Love

There's loads of chick-lit (not really my genre, so it's tough for me to recommend too many specific titles); you might look into Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble series, the Nicola Kraus/Emma McLaughlin books, The Devil Wears Prada, etc. Individual taste varies (obvi), but that's what I see circulating to 19 year-old women most frequently. Well, that and James Patterson.
posted by willpie at 5:19 PM on August 16, 2007

The Magic or Madness Trilogywas great

if you want to hand her some easier science fiction, Scott Westerfields series Uglies, Pretties, and Specials was a definite page turner
posted by korej at 5:41 PM on August 16, 2007

TomMelee: So far I'm the only person I've ever met who was actually ticked off by the end of Enders Game

Now you've met another one.

bonehead, you beat me to it. By all means Jane Austen. Emma is a good place to start, or Sense and Sensibility. Also seconding the Earthsea series, as I do every time Harry Potter comes up. Are you focused on fantasy or science fiction? She might try the earliest "Pern" novels by Anne McCaffrey. The later ones got a little formulaic, but the beginning of the series was wonderful.
posted by nax at 5:48 PM on August 16, 2007

Avoid the Wheel of Time series. Part of why it's evil is it starts out so well with likeable, and then it unravels into a plodding dragged out slog with characters you have grown to hate. It's like he took the old cliche of newlyweds becoming sexless and loathsome and written it as a fantasy series. I've heard he says that the story will take 30 volumes -- thirty -- and it looks like he's going to die before this happens. I will probably try to read the last few at some point (I perked up a bit when Matt appeared again out of nowhere...ooh ooh Daughter of the Nine Moons or whatever) but I am sure I will be disappointed.

So, yeah, the Wheel of Time will break your heart. For people who can divorce themselves from a series and just want to read gripping fiction, you can have a lot of fun with the first four-five books or so.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2007

Any of the Anne Rice vampire books. I always found them to be quick reads.

If you want to find a humourous series, go with Laurie Notaro's books. She has four or five of them. They're short essay-type books that are beyond hilarious.

One of my faves is The Stand by Stephen King. I still can't go through the Lincoln Tunnel without thinking of it.

A few more interesting ones:

The Life of Pi
The Red Tent (might be a bit too intense for a 19yo)
Memoirs of a Geisha (hard to believe this was written by a guy)
Accordian Crimes
The Shipping News
The Kite Runner
A Million Splendid Suns
The Sheltering Sky
The Namesake
posted by dancinglamb at 6:35 PM on August 16, 2007

Definitely seconding Ray Bradbury. Also, what about Roald Dahl? I gobbled up his books as a kid and I still love reading them, both the ones aimed at kids and the works for adults - try Going Solo or one of the collections of short stories. (Granted, I didn't know at the time about his anti-Semitism....) I find certain aspects of the Harry Potter books reflect Dahl, particularly the depiction of the Dursleys and the kid/adult dynamics. Oh, and the Griffin and Sabine books might be good. They're visually beautiful, the storyline is intriguing, and there's nothing like physically pulling a letter out of an envelope to engage you in what you're reading.
posted by bassjump at 7:16 PM on August 16, 2007

bridge of birds
posted by rmd1023 at 7:32 PM on August 16, 2007

Seconding Roald Dahl, especially his short stories for adults compilation - short enough to hold attention, interesting and twisty enough to keep you wanting more.

A personal favorite I foist onto just about everyone I know, and who has turned complete non-readers into fans, is Bill Bryson. He is super easy to read, laugh out loud funny without being slapstick, and if your sister is interested in travel, his travel journals are great. If you're in the states, start with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and I'm a Stranger Here Myself. Notes from a Small Country are great too.
posted by miz brown at 7:47 PM on August 16, 2007

Nthing Artemis Fowl, particular if she liked Harry Potter. As well Ender's Game, since that series then branches out into a lot more mature themes (think sociopolitical commentary, etc) Hated Phillip Pullman, he was ridiculously hard to get into, so YMMV.

I would also recommend Sabriel by Garth Nix, and the entire Abhorsen series.

I loved the Princess Bride, but it'd be hard to get into, as a book for a beginning reader. Try Ella Enchanted. Rather juvenile and silly, but a quick read and cute enough to make the three hours worth it.

If she's into romance and can stomach longish books, The Time Traveler's Wife has gorgeous writing, and I would recommend that for anyone looking for a reason for books and prose being worth our free time.
posted by Phire at 8:48 PM on August 16, 2007

Discworld. Discworld. Discworld.

(I started with Morte which made me immediately decide to start from the first book The Colour of Magic which might not have made me obsess through the rest of the series.)
posted by porpoise at 10:12 PM on August 16, 2007

My 12 year old son, who is mad about Potter, is even madder about the Redwall books by Brian Jaques. he's read all 18(!) of them twice and is actually collecting them in hardback, giving away his paperbacks as he finds the hardbacks at used bookstores.

Narnia has been mentioned, and I will second or third that. I have mixed feelings about Pullman's His Dark Materials...I liked them but didn't love them (though I'm looking forward to the movie).

One I don't think has been mentioned is Richard Adams' Watership Down, which truly transports the reader into a different world, right here on earth. Especially good if she likes rabbits...

Anything by Madeleine L'Engle is worth trying. A Wrinkle In Time is really only the first of a series, and there are connections with L'Engle's less science-fictiony Austin family books.

Julian May's Pliocene trilogy, starting with The Many Colored Land, might be a winner. SF and fantasy but heavy on characters, a great read.

I'm not much of a mystery reader, but I have been hugely enjoying Carl Hiaasen's books. Just jump in anywhere, there are a very few shared characters among some of the books, but no story is dependent on any other.

I would really recommend against any Shannara books. When Brooks started off he was a terrible writer, and was in the right place at the right time during the initial Tolkein craze of the early 70s. I'll acknowledge he's learned to write, but he'll always leave a bad taste in my mouth. Tolkien, on the other hand, should be on everyone's list. You can live without The Hobbit, which is fun but hardly a good introduction to LOTR.
posted by lhauser at 11:22 PM on August 16, 2007

She might like the Borderland series and
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan
Another vote for Kurt Vonnegut too, I really liked Sirens of Titan at about that age.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:37 PM on August 16, 2007

I'd suggest Robin McKinley. The Hero and the Crown and the Blue Sword are great, but also her fairy-tale retellings. I loved Sunshine, which is Beauty and the Beast with vampires, and actually has a little sex.

Nthing Diana Wynne Jones.
posted by bluebird at 2:02 AM on August 17, 2007

i would suggest something easy to get through, as opposed to something from the literary canon. maybe something funny like kurt vonnegut or david sedaris or douglas adams.

also, try to find something in line with her interests... if shes an outdoors type, maybe she'd like bill bryson's a walk in the woods, if shes into the grateful dead and drugs, maybe tom wolfe's electric kool aid acid test. if shes into history, maybe jared diamond's guns, germs, and steel, etc.
posted by brooklynexperiment at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2007

Ooh, yeah, I just came by to recommend Carl Hiaasen. Christopher Moore (especially Lamb) is good too. Much better than The Kite Runner. What the fuck? Do you want her to hate reading?
posted by klangklangston at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2007

Of course, I'm also amazed that anyone is seriously recommending Tolkien. If you want the dull drudgery of Welsh linguistics combined with the cheesy portentiousness of bards at a Renaissance Fair, Tolkien's your man. If you'd like to avoid term papers written by Led Zepplin, avoid Tolkien.

On the other hand, the Black Cauldron series is excellent, and should be recommended to her.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

MMM, Black Cauldron. Simon R Green? (specifically his John Taylor/Nightside books) Butcher and his Dresden Files are also VERY good. Gaiman, I really would recommend finding graphic novels of his books (the Sandman series may be a bit heavy for a newbie. Maybe not.) Fables is also awesome. I recall liking Magic Kingdom of Landover.
posted by Jacen at 11:26 AM on August 17, 2007

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