How to Inspire New Readers

How to Inspire New Readers


When I first met my now sister-in-law, her reading life consisted of magazines and design books. Looking back on it, she said reading just wasn’t part of her routine and she didn’t feel like adding one more thing to her day. When I went to visit her last weekend, her nightstand was absolutely jammed with books! So, the question is…

How did she get from magazines to a nightstand stuffed with books?

Turns out it was a beach vacation. Magazines weren’t holding her interest during those long hours basking in the sun and, for convenience’s sake, she picked up a book her husband had read, Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob. I’ve also read this one because MY husband had read it (and he probably passed it along to his brother, thus making it’s way to my sister-in-law). It’s a memoir by two ex-investment bankers exposing the ridiculousness that goes on at investment banks.


And, where could she possibly turn from the riveting world of investment banking?! The Crazy Rich Asians series, of course! Her favorite was China Rich Girlfriend…not so much the third installment (Rich People Problems). And, then she was hooked on books!

The Top 3 Books of Her New Reading Venture (So Far)

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (June 12, 2018)
A novel about a toxic love affair told from both parties’ perspectives. I’ve seen this one around, but didn’t know much about it and now I kind of want to read it! It’s my sister-in-law’s #1 book of her reading journey so far!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (May 24, 2016)
This debut novel set in a New York City restaurant also features a toxic relationship…and some exquisite food writing. I loved it too and it was one of my favorites of 2016! Here’s my review.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (January 26, 2016)
This fictional novel about Truman Capote and his group of socialite friends (the “swans”) is the epitome of “wealthy people behaving badly,” so I’m not surprised my sister-in-law loved it (see her reading taste below). And, I did too! It was another one of my favorites of 2016 (my review)!

What She’s Learned About Her Reading Taste

  • She loves the “rich people behaving badly” genre. Is that actually a genre?! Sure, it is!
  • She’s started venturing into darker fiction (i.e. Sweetbitter) and is enjoying those so far. Y’all know I’ve got more dark and messed up novels up my sleeve for her!

Where Is She Now?

She calls reading “addictive.” She keeps a book with her at all times (and hardcovers are her format of choice). She reads all over the place…in car pool line, in doctor’s offices, and she’s texted me from her garage where she’s reading in her car until she has to relieve her babysitter (Amen!). She now officially considers herself a reader…and has the nightstand to prove it!

How To Inspire New Readers

  • Start easy. Dear God, do not give a new reader a slow book that takes work to get through! Start with something that’s easy to get engrossed in.
  • Stay in the new reader’s wheelhouse for a bit…until she can figure out what characteristics of her preferred genres especially appeal to her. Then, you can start to apply those characteristics to other genres.
  • Encourage the new reader to make reading a part of her regular routine. Find a regular time in the day or week that reading can easily fit into. For me, that’s before bed, while waiting in any sort of line, at the pool, and a little most afternoons.

And, my sister-in-law adds…

  • Do your research before you decide on a book…increasing the likelihood you’ll enjoy the book!
  • Don’t feel obligated to finish every book you start. As John Irving says, “Grown-Ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” And, y’all know I whole-heartedly support the DNF!

How do you inspire new readers? Or, are you one yourself?

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  1. Kay wrote:

    I would say also let people know that reading can be done in various ways – print, e-format, audio. It all depends on the person, where their life is at that moment, and their preference. Honestly, my favorite part of my librarian job was reader advisory – finding just the right book for a patron who wanted suggestions. And then some of them would come back and say – what next? Loved it. You did a good job here, Sarah. Well done!

    Posted 8.9.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thanks so much and that’s such a great point about format! I know some people who are strictly audiobook listeners b/c that’s all that fits in their lives right now.

      Posted 8.20.18 Reply
  2. Angela wrote:

    My sister and I were both big readers as kids, but in our twenties, she had fallen out of it. I would always mention to her what I was reading, and eventually she started taking my recommendations! We have similar taste in books, so she started with those and now has completely branched out on her own, often finding books I didn’t even know about.

    Posted 8.9.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I love that! And now y’all can have your own little book club!

      Posted 8.20.18 Reply
  3. Beth F wrote:

    Great story. And what Kay said …

    Posted 8.10.18 Reply
  4. I have a couple of friends that I am trying to get into reading. This gives me hope! So glad she has found the joy of a reading life!

    Posted 8.14.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      So glad to hear that!

      Posted 8.20.18 Reply
  5. My sister used to be the same as your SIL! She only ever read People and US Weekly magazines. Unfortunately, it took tragic circumstances to change things for her. When she was widowed in 2015 I gave her bereavement memoirs by Elizabeth Alexander, Joan Didion and C.S. Lewis. She read those and was hooked. I think it really helped her to read stories by people who had been through similar things. From memoirs she made her way into contemporary fiction (e.g. Oprah’s Book Club choices). So she went from not reading at all to a person who read 80-100 books a year. However…when she remarried last summer and became a mom/stepmom of four, reading fell by the wayside. I keep shoving books her way and hope she’ll get back to it one of these days.

    Posted 8.14.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Wow – that’s a really powerful story. I love that reading got her through such a tough time. And – yes – reading with a family, kids, etc is definitely harder to maintain!

      Posted 8.20.18 Reply

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