Literature recommendations for non-literature-readers?

The Blue Bookcase posed an interesting question to its readers this hop: What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature? 

I actually think that this might be one of the hardest questions ever posed over at The Blue Bookcase. Why do I find it so hard?

Firstly, because if I knew someone didn't like literature I probably wouldn't recommend anything to them. When I first started seeing my boyfriend (years ago now), he had never read a book (or no more than 2 or 3). I talked him into agreeing to read one Harry Potter novel a year. Bless him, he did read The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets for me, but I could see that it was making him miserable. He didn't enjoy a single moment of it, and I didn't want reading to be something that made him miserable. After that experience, my gut feeling would be to accept that everyone has different interests and leave it at that. 

Leaving that aside, if I did decide to recommend something, it would probably depend on the person. There are so many different kinds of people out there, it only makes sense we all have different tastes. If that person already wasn't a fan of literature, I would want it to be a fairly specific recommendation to them personally in the hopes that it might help them enjoy their reading experience. 

So where does that leave me? 
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden comes to mind. As does A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, an amazing Australian book. Lovesong by Alex Miller is another beautiful Australian book I would definitely consider recommending to the hypothetical literature-phobe. If I were brave, I might suggest a Margaret Atwood book, perhaps Alias Grace or The Year of the Flood.  If I were even braver I would definitely consider recommending The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, a really beautiful book. 

I am trying to choose books with language that is both beautiful but straightforward. I wouldn't want to scare anyone off with challenging prose or poor pace and lack of plot. All of these books I feel are unique but accessible to a wide range of people, and those are the qualities I would be looking for when I made the recommendation.

What about you? If you were brave enough to recommend literature to someone who doesn't like reading, what would you think about recommending?

#4 Weekly Blogging Tip: Commenting Systems

Choosing the right commenting system

Last weeks tip was to be a thoughtful commenter. I thought that it might be a good idea to also have a post about the different commenting systems there are available for people to use.

Never having had a wordpress blog, I don't know what the native wordpress commenting system is like. If it is similar to the Blogger native commenting system, I hope that this post helps you as well.  This weeks tip is this:

Consider replacing the native commenting system with a third party commenting system.

What's wrong with the native blogger system I hear people asking? Well, perhaps this is just a matter of personal taste, but since I have seen other people complaining about the same thing I thought it was worth having a post on.

The problems with the native commenting system:

Spam: I got spam all the time in my comments. Well. Not all the time. But frequently enough for it to become really annoying.

No one likes getting spam, and the blogger commenting system just seemed to make it really easy.

Comment moderation/Captcha: I know that the blogger system has ways of getting around the problem of spam, and that is either to enable comment moderation or Captcha. Neither of these options seemed particularly desirable to me.

The problem I had with comment moderation is that there are only so many hours in the day. I just didn't really have the time to go through every comment and approve them before I allowed them to be published on Page Turners.

And Captcha? Well, I don't know about you, but I find Captcha really annoying to use. I love nothing more than reading through a whole heap of people's posts. I open up lots of tabs in my browser and go through and read them and comment on them. Only problem is that sometimes I hit submit on my comment and then move on to the next post, only to realise a captcha has come up which I haven't filled out. Then when I am ready to comment somewhere else, I have to go back to a previous blog and finish captcha-ing. Depending on how the site is set up, I have even been known to lose that original comment. Also, if I am blogging on my lunch break at work sometimes my work computer makes it really hard to read the letters. This is quite off putting when you want to leave a comment but the commenting system (in combination with my computer to be fair) is making it really difficult. Plus. It's just annoying. As you might have already figured out, I am a seriously impatient person. I want to write my comment and submit.

Leaving replies: My biggest problem with the blogger commenting system, though, is that you can't directly reply to people. I like to reply to people who take the time to write on my blog. I don't think it's something that you necessarily have to do, but I like to do it. I was finding it really hard with blogger though, where I had reply to everyone in one single comment. Unless those people came back to Page Turners specifically to check if they had been replied to – that reply might never have seen their reply. Not very conducive to starting or furthering discussion.

The solution: a third party commenting system

There are lots of different commenting systems out there that you can use to replace the blogger commenting system. These include systems such as INTENSEDEBATE, DISQUS and LIVEFYRE (links coming).

I only have experience with intensedebate (and so most of the following will mention that), and I can tell you that downloading it on to Page Turners has been the best thing I have ever done for my blog.

The benefits of a third party commenting system are these:

Easy installation: These commenting systems can be loaded onto your blog from the system's own website, which makes the installation of them super easy (even for technically useless people like me!).

Spam gone: Since downloading intensedebate, I have ever again had a spam comment (from a non-blogger anyway, see last week's post).

Creating discussion: With third party commenting systems you can reply directly to a comment, and they can in turn reply directly to your reply. Other people can join in as well. That way, people can really interact with each other. I receive emails directly from intensedebate when someone has replied to one of my posts and one of my comments. I imagine it emails all commenter's directly if someone replies to their post (although I don't know if you need an intensedebate account for this to happen???).

Tracking other comments: With the third party commenting system I use, I can keep an eye on all of my comments. If I leave a comment on someone elses blog I am notified by email that I have received a reply. This is great. It means that I am reminded to check back in to other blogs when I might otherwise forget to do so.

Single sign on: Once I log into my intensedebate account, I don't have to sign in each time I comment on someones blog (so long as they use intensedebate as well). The system just automatically remembers my details. Easy!

Commentluv: Commentluv is a great plug-in which I could never get to use with the native blogger system. It allows a commenter to leave a link to their most recent post. It isn't included in the body of their comment, so it isn't distracting or spam. It does, however, means that I have one extra way of finding new and interesting posts/blogs to read.

[I feel at this point it is worth saying up front that I have heard of some issues, and experienced some issues, when installing the third party commenting systems. I don't know if this happens with other systems, but when I installed intensedebate it deleted all of my blogger comments so it looked like I had lost about 1.5 years worth of comments. I googled the problem and found sites saying it was a common problem and I should wait it out. Within a week, all of my blogger comments had returned without a problem. It was scary, but patience proved to be worth it.]

So, if you want to make things easier for yourself and, more importantly, for your readers I would very much recommend that you consider using a third party commenting system on your blog.

Given I have mentioned this week that I think third party commenting systems can make it easier for your readers (as well as you!), I thought next week might be a good time to talk about how blog design can make things easier for your readers as well. I am aware that this might be heading into dangerous territory because there's nothing more personal than taste in blog design, but I am going to give it a shot anyway.


Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.

If anyone else has any tips they think might be worthwhile sharing - please email me your ideas to pageturnersbooks (at) gmail (dot) com

#3 Commenting Habits
#2 Obsession with Followers
#1 The Follower Gadget
An Introduction

Review: A Certain Justice by PD James

A Certain Justice is a modern day legal crime thriller, and it delivers what you might expect from such a book.

DI Adam Dalgiesh is asked to investigate the death of Venetia Aldridge, a famous criminal barrister found murdered in chambers. At the time of her death, had just successfully defended Gary Ashe, accused of the bloody murder of his Aunt. Her life is turned upside down when she discovers that Ashe has commenced a relationship with her daughter and that they intend to be married. Could it be Ashe who has killed Aldridge, or even her own daughter who has killed her out of spite? Or is it more complicated than anyone can imagine?

I certainly enjoyed the book nad while I was reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The plot was engaging in a very dark way and it certainly felt significantly more realistic than a lot of crime novels.

I believe that the last point is largely because of the author herself.

I had heard PD James spoken of as one of the best as well as one of the most prolific modern day crime writers. Naturally this meant that I was keen to read one of her books. This was only enhanced when I heard her speak about her life on the ABC Radio National Book Show on the occasion of her 90th birthday. She seemed to have led a fascinating life in various government departments, including a lot of criminal and forensic sections of the government and so I was interested to see how her books were informed by this experience.

As said, it definitely seemed to. The book displayed an understanding of the criminal law system (I feel able to say that because I am a criminal lawyer in NSW Australia and the Australian system is based on that of England) and it also displayed an accurate understanding of the approach criminal barristers take to their work.

People are often harsh about crimnial solicitors and barristers. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I could represent guilty people I would be a very rich lady (well, I'd be well off anyway). The reality is that most people who choose the criminal law as their career path (from a defence perspective anyway), it is more about the bigger picture than the smaller picture.
My only reservation with this book is that it hasn’t proved to be very memorable. Although I can remember being hooked on it while I was reading it, now that I have read it some time ago I can’t remember much about it. Certainly not much of the detail.

In the end, I would say that it was a great example of modern crime writing, nothing more and nothing less. 

 5.5 / 8
Enjoyable and worth reading if you have the opportunity.

Have you read much PD James? How do you think her books compare to other crime fiction writers?