Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Gift Box for Reluctant Readers

The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, hopes that spending some $11 million on book gift boxes for the poor of her country will encourage them to read more. She plans to give poor families gift boxes of up to nine books pulled together from a list of 49 titles that are deemed to be appropriate. Other than the fact that some of her critics declare that she would be better off building a few more libraries for her people instead of throwing this much money down what is potentially a black hole, the biggest controversy has centered on the choice of eligible books.

Chile's official choices include titles by Allende, Salinger, Kafka and others. Here's what I would put into a box if I were trying to create a little enthusiasm for reading in the life of some non-reader:
1. Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

2. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

3. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

4. Battle Cry of Freedom - James M. McPherson

5. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler

6. Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin

7. Time and Again - Jack Finney

8. Time on My Hands - Peter Delacorte

9. We Were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates
I would hope that the combination of literary fiction, light reading and history would make my target reader yearn for a little more of each type. These are some of my favorite books, of course, but it would be easy enough for me to come up with other combinations that might serve the purpose even better. What do you think?


  1. Hmm, that's a good question. I hate to say it but I'd probably include Harry Potter. The kids seem to like it... And perhaps Lord of the Rings for meatier fantasy. For Canada there would have to be some Atwood, and perhaps some Pierre Burton history. There would have to be works from England and France to represent our founding cultures. Maybe Austen or Dickens, and some Victor Hugo. Maybe P.K. Page for poetry. Also something American or Latin American... so many choices!

  2. I changed my mind about those books. It's hard to pick just 9! See my blog for my picks...

  3. I like everything in your box.
    Nice work, Sam.

  4. I like eveything in your box too, Sam, but if I was trying to encourage non readers to read? I'd pick some livelier books. Louis L'Amour. Mickey Spillane. Norah Roberts. Sure, brain candy, but hook 'em on the fun stuff and they're more likely to associate reading w/entertainment rather than a chore.

  5. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this to you, Sam, but there are some items relevant to the library community that I see here first! I mean, before the library bloggers I follow pick up a story.

    This entry is just one example of that. You had it up and remarked upon before my fellow info pros did!


  6. Max, I can't decide if I've just been spammed or not...so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Great picks, everyone. I would probably come up with something different, depending on my mood and the target, every time I wrote a list of nine books to encourage reading...nice problem to have, of course.

  8. That's a nice compliment, Jill. Thanks for that. Library-related issues really interest me and I'm always looking for that kind of thing. To me, that's just a neat little world. :-)

  9. Sam giving someone the benefit of the doubt?! Will wonders never cease? ;)

    Total spam. I delete that stuff, especially if it's obvious they didn't even read the post.

  10. You're right, Sylvia. I'm deleting ol' Max and his blatant sales pitch.

    I don't want to become known as someone who gives the benefit of the doubt. ;)

  11. Hmm. I lived in Chile for two years (93-95). I don't remember seeing any public libraries there, although I wasn't looking too hard. I did notice that it was usually pretty easy to pick out the foreigners -- we were the ones reading on the subway and the bus.

    Course, literacy was pretty low. If you live in the country and don't have the money to pay for the bus for your kid to go to school (or for pencils or shoes), then it's pretty hard to learn to read.

  12. I remember all those photos that you've posted over at your blog. That must have been quite an experience.

    I can't imagine anyone living in that level of poverty actually spending money for books. They'd be nuts to do it, so this is probably a good thing but they're going to have to get the literacy rate up if free books is really going to have much of an impact there.