Life Advice for Book Lovers: “My husband is really not into reading books.”
Book Recommendations for the Troubled Soul
Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers, Lit Hub’s advice column. You tell me what’s eating you in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you what you should read next.
My husband, Joe, and I have been married for nine years. He knows and appreciates my love for all things bookish. My little closet is filled with more books than clothing, and every little thing I own from my keychain to my teacup has something to inspire the book nerd in me. My two girls (6yo and 2yo) also love reading picture books and we snuggle everyday before bed to read. You may now have formulated an idea of where I am going with this… my husband is really not into reading books.
He will read books on finance, house-keeping, healthy lifestyle, diet etc, and every winter he suffers from the winter blues so much that I am constantly checking out books from the library about happiness but have failed miserably. I am trying to convince him that perhaps a really good story that is engaging, poignant and inspiring will help with his seasonal affective disorder and also transform his mind about fiction and good story-telling.
His primary interests: soccer, football, hiking, being outside under the sun all the time, nature, fixing anything that is broken in the house.
P.S. He’s recently found a liking to the PBS show All Creatures Great and Small.
Dear Book Lover,
The first thing that comes to my mind upon reading your email is that famous John Waters quote that the Strand has, no doubt, made a killing off of merchandizing: “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em.” Though I suppose we’re well past that point now! No matter!
It seems like your husband likes books that promise some sort of self-improvement, like he wants to better himself through the books he encounters. Like he wants to come away from his reading material having learned something, which is admirable. Because you mention his love of nature, I would recommend Bill McKibben, a man well-equipped to putting the facts of the world down on the page. Perhaps The End of Nature. I also think he might enjoy Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass; you’ll never look at the world or our words for it the same way again. I can’t help but feel like your husband would do well to be in awe of something, and for that reason, I propose John Zada’s In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch; something about the structure of the telling, the people he encounters and the things they have to say, might feel like that PBS show he enjoys. For fiction, I’d turn to Richard Powers’ The Overstory, a novelistic ode to the natural world.
For a dose of / dissection of happiness (either for you or him!), consider Nuar Alsadir’s Animal Joy—a beautifully-written exploration of laughter.
Also, I want to say that it’s wonderful that you’ve passed on your love of literature to your kids. I can’t help but wonder if they might be the key here. Would your husband join in story time? To me, there is no better way to fall in love with language than to let it sit on your tongue. No better way to experience the magic of a book than to share it with other people. At story time, every child’s bed becomes an ampitheatre in miniature. I think of the great orators, of the myths passed on. Might they all enjoy D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths? And then, perhaps when the children are a bit older, the Percy Jackson series, starting with The Lightning Thief. It’s a modern play on Greek mythology—very fun. A tale best told out loud.
Much luck to you,
P.S. I’m sure you already knew this, but I’d remiss if I didn’t point out that All Creatures Great and Small is based on a book by James Herriot.