I do enjoy the first Thursday of the month so, because it means it's Literary Blog Hop time! It also presents the opportunity for me to maybe say something clever, but I wouldn't hold your breath on that.
Anyway, this month's question is:
What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature?
Can I firstly just say how much I respect The Blue Bookcase for not going the Christmas route with this month's issue? Big, huge, giant, Santa's arse amounts of respect, seriously.
Anyway, my first general response to this was 'there are people who don't like literature?!' But that was mainly a result of reading too many blogs which, the ones I read anyway, basically all focus on literature of some form or another. And, in fact, I live in a house with people who read solely non-literary books, and actually, in one case, think that, if you are reading something that is literature, then you're just doing it for show and can't possibly be enjoying it.
How does one overcome such obstacles? Well, in the case of my dad (the above literature doubter) I think I got through to him by making him read Maus, which some people (*cough* snobs *cough*) might say isn't literature because it's a graphic novel, to which I say 'pish' and 'twaddle', and also 'you clearly haven't read it!' But that didn't exactly inspire him to make more literary book choices, and he continues to read the book equivalents of TV (not that there's anything wrong with TV. In fact, I love TV. But it hardly ever offers the same enrichment as literature does. Just sayin.)
Anyway. I still think Maus is an excellent choice for those who don't read literature, since it's mostly looking at pictures but also reading basically the most moving account of the Holocaust I've read yet. But it's not necessarily a gateway to bigger and better things, as some other literary works might be. I can think of so many books that I think so many people I know might enjoy and that might get them to read better things, but ones that I think might be good for everyone? That's much more difficult. After some careful consideration though, I think that there are some books that everyone is fully capable of reading, and that they really should read because they're so awesome. Actually, I think there are a lot of books like that. But here are just a few:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Because there are so many complex ideas and wonderful idealism, but it's all presented through a child narrator, which means that the language remains manageable to read, whilst you're actually being indoctrinated with anti-prejudice ideals. Neat, huh?
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- I think the joy of the dystopian novel is that shit doesn't get too real, so you can't be sure that you're reading something highbrow. And somehow, at the end of this one, you'll be left with an intense need to support the rights of women too. Excellent.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith- I don't know if this is considered a YA novel or not, but even if it is, it's a decidedly literary one, and it's incredible. It has the advantage of a young narrator again, so the language never gets too dense, but it's so engaging and lovely that I suspect even those completely averse to literature won't even realise that it is.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides- I wanted to include a Eugenides book because I think he's a really accessible writer, and while I possibly love Middlesex a tiny bit more (I really can't choose though... I don't know!) I feel like The Marriage Plot contains a story that would connect to more people and, even if you don't grasp all the things he's talking about (I ignored all the stuff about semiotics, for instance) you're still going to get a lot out of it.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner- I know people who don't read literature are unlikely to read plays, but but but they're really easier to read then whole books with descriptions and prose and things in them, and this is my absolute favourite. Also, if it all gets too much, you can watch the HBO adaptation, and that's never a bad thing.
I feel like there are so many more books I could name, but it's almost impossible to make people read the things you want them to, or to tell what they'd like. Other than, obviously, that everyone will like To Kill A Mockingbird. No doubt about that.