I have this brother. Smart chap, a graduate of a fine Big Ten institution, a fan of many "literary films" and, from what I know, a generally thoughtful and soulful person. But you put a book of more than 200 pages in front of him and he'll act like a eight year old staring down a heaping pile of slimy lima beans. He ain't having it. The occasional exception to the rule seems to be the random sci-fi or fantasy novel--books that lay far outside the realm of my notable gift-selecting prowess. For years the only book that I gave him was a volume of Simpsons comics each Christmas. This went on for about six years until, with me in college and he in his mid-twenties, it just didn't feel right. I have since moved on to giving him the annual collection of Best Non-Required Reading, a gift he says he enjoys but one is never sure just how much of it he actually reads.
This year I have been giving much thought to what novels I might be able to give him that won't go unread. I have considered The Gunslinger, the first volume of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. People seem to like, but who knows, the only King book I have read is The Shining, an altogether different affair. Then there is Neal Gaiman's American Gods, a fairly literary novel with enough fantasy that its length might prove to be a non-issue. Also, I have considered Benjamin Kunkel's Indecision, a humorous debut novel about a twenty-eight year-old slacker who takes a drug that cures his chronic indecision and soon finds himself romping about South America. While my brother might greet the humor and subject matter in Indecision warmly, I want not to have him think I am sending him some sort of not-so-veiled message about his own life--which would not be the case--so I have shied away from this one temporarily.
But, in general, what are some good books for the non-reader? Off the top of my head there are some obvious non-fictions like the work of Klosterman and Sedaris--breezy, fun books that seem to appeal to the well-read and unread alike. I struggle a bit more when trying to generate a list of novels. Perhaps this is because I am an elitist when it comes to the book gifts. Indeed, King seems rather too populist for my gift-giving sensibility. Something like Life of Pi is a swell choice, I think. And, while some skimmers might disagree, I believe the shorter novels of Murakami are a fine selection for a person such as my brother with an apparent taste for fantasy but an aversion to literature.
I could ramble on longer, but I come to you now from the communal computer in my apartment building and folks are waiting. If they only knew how urgent this Book-Loop correspondence was they would go upstairs, take a nap and give me more time, but no, they seem quite impatient.