As Gary Coleman once taught us, it takes different strokes to move this world, and that means that people who love to read must work hand-in-hand with people who regard reading as the worst way to spend any amount of free time. In fact, you might even be close friends with (or related to) someone who never, ever reads a book, which means your relationship is limited by the fact that you can’t talk about books endlessly. In some cases, you can get close if there’s a film or TV adaptation they’ve watched, but it’s not exactly the same thing. The ideal would be to convince them to read your favorite books so you can pull them into your insidious Reading Circle.
But how can you do that if they regard reading as a chore (as if)? It’s not going to easy, but it can be done. Here’s five steps you can take to convince your non-book nerd friend to read your favorite book.
Shape Your Pitch
First of all, know your audience. Why are they so resistant? Do they think Harry Potter is for kids, or do they think any story that incorporates magic is silly? Are they contrarians who just refuse to consider anything that’s popular? Start with their reasons for resisting, and shape your pitch for the book to be the equal and opposite force. If they think stories about boy wizards aren’t worth their time, focus on the depth of the characters and the emotional resonance of their travails. If they refuse to read anything popular, point out how many classics were once wildly popular bestsellers.
Remove the Pressure
The hard sell won’t work here. You have to keep in mind that the easiest thing in the world is to not do something, and if you push too hard for your book the non-reader will probably just dig in their heels. And if you do manage to pressure or guilt them into reading the book they’ll do so with a surly, negative attitude, and there’s a real risk they’ll decide they don’t like it just because they resent being pushed into reading it. The key is going to be taking a step back and arguing positively for the book experience instead of trying to force the issue.
Make a Deal
You’re asking someone to take it on faith that their time will be well spent on this book, and time is the one thing they’re not making more of. Instead of just imperiously insisting that the book will change their lives and they must read it, start a negotiation and offer to experience something they insist is great but you can’t get excited about. Whether it’s a movie they’ve always insisted you should see, or a lifestyle choice you just don’t understand (ugh, jogging, amiright?), or a night at the opera or something, put it on the table: you’ll do theirs if they do yours. That puts skin in the game and makes it a partnership instead of putting your taste above theirs.
Find Famous Allies
If you get the sense they’re simply not taking your arguments seriously, it might be time to find some celebrity endorsements to aid your cause. Think about their favorite musicians, actors, or other famous types and see if you can find some that have publicly endorsed the books in question. This doesn’t have to be internationally famous people, either—maybe there are folks in your social circles that your friend respects and looks up to who could be recruited for the cause. In short, swallow your pride and seek reinforcements.
Get in There
Okay, you love this book, so you’ve read it sixty-four times and can quote it at length and frequently have entire conversations that are just quotes from it. If your friend still refuses to read it, it might be because you’ve made it feel like a school assignment. Get in there and make it into a more Book Club feel by offering to re-read the book with them, instantly turning a solitary experience (which might be one reason they don’t like to read in the first place) into a shared experience. If you know other superfans who are just as besotted with the books, recruit them to re-read it too, and meet up on a regular basis (like, over cocktails or a fun dinner) to discuss it, making it into a must-attend social event. That’ll make it something they desperately want to be a part of instead of a chore they want to avoid.
Finally, accept the outcome. If you try everything in your power to convince them to read that book and they still refuse, back off—it’s not worth ruining a friendship over. And, most importantly, if they do give in and read the book and don’t like it, accept that verdict. They did their part and gave it a chance, and it’s totally legit for them to simply not like it the way you do. Sure, they’re clearly wrong, but that’s their right.
What book do you constantly try to convince people to read?