Edited by Jeff O'Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Consider for a moment your habits as a reader. Are you up on everything in the New York Times best seller list, but still blanching at the thought of tackling Moby Dick? Or maybe you're thoroughly versed in older classics to the exclusion of their contemporary counterparts. Many of us who profess to love books and reading have at least one author who feels, for whatever reason, unapproachable. Once that bias has hard-wired itself into your system, how do you correct it?
Simple answer: START HERE. This short book, produced by the folks behind the website Book Riot, provides overview, introduction, and a well-plotted course of entry into the works of twenty-five authors. It's smart, engaging, and as much fun to dip into for the authors you love as the ones you're just getting to know.
The entries have bylines in such small type I initially missed them, but the reviewing "voice" throughout is fairly uniform. As the introduction notes, "There are authors, and PhDs, and critics writing here, but first and foremost we are readers writing for other readers." The enthusiasm comes across, and is reflected in the authors we meet as well. Certainly Philip K. Dick may pose a challenge to readers, and I'm among those who have shelved my weight in the works of David Foster Wallace without sampling his wares, but Jane Austen? Stephen King? Also here, and just as hard for some readers to cozy up to, though not for long.
It's endearing the way the writers work to ensure a good experience for first-time readers; their love of the authors they write about is palpable. Trying Herman Melville? First you'll be reading just the tiniest of short stories, to see if the motion of the boat makes you queasy. Now onto a slightly longer but still short novel. Only once you've got your sea legs are you welcomed aboard The Pequod and invited to tackle Moby Dick.
START HERE came together as a Kickstarter-funded project, and it's a great use of that community-building resource. Sharing a love of books and reading is what some of us get out of bed for each day, and enlarging that community is a worthy cause. Read it, keep it with you when you go shopping, agree and argue with the opinions, and dare yourself to tackle a new author this year (Italo Calvino, I'm looking your way). START HERE is a generous launch pad for readership. Dig in and blaze your own trail forward.