Reader Challenge #6 – The Harry Potter Outreach Program

(Note: The impetus for creating this post hit my while I was reading this over on Lou Anders’ blog, right around the section talking about Michael Chabon and the Oprah Book Club).

As we are all aware, July 21st, 2007 is P-Day (Potter Day) for the book publishing industry. At 12:01 AM, the newest, and last, Harry Potter book will be made available for sale. Undoubtedly there will be many book stores staying open, or opening there doors, to allow fans to purchase the book as soon as humanly possible. Now we, as science fiction fans, could sit back and grumble at how a ‘kids’ book, and fantasy at that!, is getting all the attention while SF gets the short shrift. Or, we can do something positive about it. Just think of all the people who read Harry Potter who haven’t tried anything else fantasy or science fiction related, or maybe they’ve read something in the field but didn’t like it. In either case, Harry Potter has a tremendously huge number of readers who maybe willing to try something different. We, as fans, have a huge opportunity to try to reach out to the Harry Potter readers and introduce them to other worthwhile reads available in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Thus, I bring you:

The Harry Potter Outreach Program!

This program is our attempt to raise the awareness of non-genre readers about the many good books they are missing if they only read Harry Potter and nothing else. It will work like this. On this site, I’d like to see us come up with a list of books that might appeal to Harry Potter readers. There will be six categories: (SF) 12 and Under, (SF)Young Adult, (SF) Adult, (F)12 and Under, (F)Young Adult, and (F) Adult. I ask that you list up to three books in each category. About two weeks or so before the release of the last Potter book, the results will be tabulated and the result will be a PDF file listing the top 3 books in each category suitable for printing on a 4×6″ index card. Something along the lines of: “You like the wonders of Harry Potter, you may like to read some of the following books…” This will be open to discussion as well.

You can then, if you so choose, print these out and take them to your local bookstore to hand out to those people waiting in line. There will also be a link on the card pointing back to this post showing that there are a lot more choices than just the ones presented on the card. I think this is a good time for us in the SF community to actually do something to spread the word about the Science Fiction and Fantasy community. I’ll create a permanent link on the right hand side of the main page pointing back to this post, and I’ll try to have weekly, if not more often, reminders about the program. To kick things off, here are my choices:

SCIENCE FICTION

12 AND UNDER: Larklight by Philip Reeve, City of Ember by by Jeanne DuPrau

YOUNG ADULT: Mortal Engines, Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson

ADULT: Old Man’s War/Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

FANTASY

12 AND UNDER: Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton

YOUNG ADULT: Here There Be Dragons by by James A. Owen

ADULT: A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin

I’m not expecting to change the minds of the adults, but I bet we can reach some of the kids, who, after all, we will need if SF is to gain new readers.

Also, if you do go out, take a camera and send us your pics. We’ll find a place to host them so we can all see the magic in action!

Now, have at it!

23 thoughts on “Reader Challenge #6 – The Harry Potter Outreach Program”

  1. I remember reading Ender’s Game as a 13 year old and being blown away. A lot of the adult Potter People I know seem to like that and like tao of poo books. You might be screwed in your enlightenment efforts!

  2. A friend of mine who used to work in a bookstore maintained a list like this for parents desperate to find something else for their kids to read after Harry Potter. I’ll have to send her over here to list her favorites too.

    SCIENCE FICTION

    12 AND UNDER: Have Spacesuit Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein

    YOUNG ADULT: Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

    ADULT: Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow

    FANTASY

    12 AND UNDER: The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster;

    YOUNG ADULT: A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle

    ADULT: A Mirror of Her Dreams/A Man Rides Through, Stephen Donaldson

    Dugg!

  3. SCIENCE FICTION

    12 AND UNDER: Asimov’s Norby books

    YOUNG ADULT: Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, Asimov’s Caves of Steel

    ADULT: The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust, Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Dan Simmons Ilium.

    FANTASY

    12 AND UNDER: Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron

    YOUNG ADULT: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Charles De Lint’s Forests of the Heart

    ADULT: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, Raymond E. Feist’s Faerie Tale

  4. I’m not familiar with any books that would be suitable for Under 12, unfortunately, but here are my recommendations for the other categories:

    Science Fiction:

    Young Adult: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    Adult: Old Man’s War/Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

    Fantasy:

    Young Adult: Any of Terry Brooks Shannara books, at least the first book in a specific series

    Adult: The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone series by Greg Keyes

    I know there are some who would take issue with the Brooks suggestion, but I think they are good for the following reasons:

    1) They are very readable for the young adult, challenging but not *too* challenging

    2) There’s a good mix of action and character interplay, and I think the magic aspects would appeal to a Potter fan.

    3) As I’ve aged, I’ve grown to like Brooks less (though I do still enjoy them enough for the most part) but as a young adult, I devoured every Brooks book that I could find. Remember, we’re trying to entice these kids into the genre. They may not be classic literature, but they could certainly be that bridging drug to eventually move them on to the harder stuff.

  5. I don’t know whether to smile or sigh at the fact that nowhere in this discussion (here, over on Lou Anders blog, or at any of the sites he links to) has there been a mention of libraries or librarians.

    If you google something like “if you liked Harry Potter” or “Harry Potter Readalikes” you will get hundreds of booklists like the ones you are suggesting, put together over the past decade by savvy librarians for the benefit of their patrons.

    Don’t get me wrong, though–the more lists the better, and I imagine that the lists created here will include some invaluable (and overlooked) suggestions. But I had to put in a plug for librarians–especially teen librarians–everywhere, who work really hard to treat all genre’s as equals (though some of us have more trouble with the so-called modern literary novel than not) and to provide excellent reader’s advisory for all patrons. (Don’t give up on the adult HP fans, btw–there are so many good books out there right now that I’m absolutely positive there’s one that will do the trick.)

    Librarians are your friend! We like books. We like readers. We live to make the perfect match. For many of us (yeah, I’m one of ‘em) techno- and -info literate as we are and must be, reading is still definitely fundamental. Not only are we trained to help people find a good book, we LOVE doing it. And a lot of us (a lot of us) are wild, fanatical science fiction and fantasy fans as well.

    :)

  6. SF(U12): Ender’s Game (The only OSC book I ever recommend)

    SF(YA): Starship Troopers, Foundation

    SF(A): The Diamond Age, Footfall

    F(U12): The Hobbit, The Belgariad (5 books)

    F(YA): Magic Kingdom for Sale (Sold!), The Light Fantastic, Lord of the Rings, Dragonflight

    F(A): A Game of Thrones, Storm Front

  7. Here are my quick choices. I think this is an excellent idea!

    Science Fiction

    12 and Under: “Space Cadet” by Robert A. Heinlein

    Young Adult: “Podkayne of Mars” by Robert A. Heinlein

    Adult: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein

    (Hey – I like Heinlein!)

    Fantasy

    12 and Under: Lemony Snickett’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

    Young Adult: “The Sword of Shannara” by Terry Brooks (I actually like “Elfstones” better, but it’s part 2…)

    Adult: “The Wheel of Time” Series by Robert Jordan

  8. Redrockgirl,

    True, Libraries have done/are doing similar things. Unfortunately, most people don’t avail themselves of libraries and don’t know those lists are out there. The same thing applies to searching for lists.

    We’re trying to come at the issue from the other side. Instead of the Potter readers having to make an effort to find other reading material, we bring it to them. Not only do they get a nice list of books to read, they see that the SF fans do care enough about our field to make an effort to reach out.

    I’ll definitely do some searching on what you suggest and will add them to our list.

  9. I like to read some young adult fiction to get an idea what my son should or should not be reading (he is only 10 at this point) so I will offer my suggestions:

    Science Fiction:

    12 and Under: Andrew Lost series by J.C. Greenburg

    Young Adult: Supernaturals by Eoin Colfer

    Fantasy:

    12 and Under/Young Adult: Redwall by Brian Jacques, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.

    As for libraries and librarians – they are awesome folks and great places to get books and learn about new books. As JP said, I don’t think our desire is to duplicate the work they do, but instead help drive some folks to utilize those resources.

  10. Fantasy:

    Under 12 – The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander or Redwall by Brian Jacques

    YA – A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle

    A – Mists of Avalon

  11. Thanks for the comments… I just wanted to make it clear that I think what you’re doing is awesome, and I certainly wasn’t trying to minimize it or discourage it or anything. Quite the opposite! I’m certain you all will come up with very different lists, and in distributing them will reach people that the local library might never see (or might never see otherwise–hopefully they’ll give it a try after seeing your lists!)

    And it’s good for me to be reminded that the library is certainly (sadly) not the first place people go anymore when they need a book. The best libraries do take their wares out into the world, but most don’t, as you noted, and that’s a huge hole.

    To that end, here are my picks:

    SCIENCE FICTION

    12 AND UNDER: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, or the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

    YOUNG ADULT: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, or the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

    ADULT: Dune by Frank Herbert, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, or The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

    FANTASY

    12 AND UNDER: Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

    YOUNG ADULT: His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, The Bartimeous Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, or The Dreamhunters Duet by Elizabeth Knox

    ADULT: any Patricia McKillip, Princess of Roumani series by Paul Park, the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, or The Dresdan Files by Jim Butcher

    There is no way I could choose just one for each category!:)

  12. Ooooh I forgot about Rick Riordan’s Olympian’s series. My son loved the first two books and I am sure he is anxiously waiting for the third.

  13. SCIENCE FICTION:

    U12: Williams and Abrashkin’s Danny Dunn series (if it’s still in print)

    YA: Simak’s The Way Station

    Adult: Dune

    FANTASY:

    U12: L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time trilogy (not Dark Waters), Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series

    YA: Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series

    Adult: anything by Tim Powers, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Nursery Crimes Division series.

  14. All my Science Fiction recommendations were mentioned already :P

    FANTASY

    12 AND UNDER: Xanth Series by Piers Anthony (I think this should be accessible to 10-12 year olds, but… it’s been a while)

    YOUNG ADULT: The Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin

    ADULT: The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop/ Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

  15. Under 12 got pretty well taken care of with Heinlein, L’engle, Alexander – Did any one mention John Christopher’s books? Baum’s Oz books, too.

    Young Adult & Adult – L.E. Modessit’s Recluse series or any of his other ones. Anne McCaffery original Pern trilogy, LeGuin’s Earth Sea trilogy. Peirs Anthony’s Xanth series (the first few were good, but I burned out after that) Any of Roger Zelazny’s books, especially the Amber series including the new ones by Bentancourt.

  16. Found another pretty good book over the weekend at the library with my family. Another Heaven, Another Earth by H. M. Hoover – I did not read it but it looked somewhat interesting and was marked as a young adult novel.

  17. How many can I have, again? At first the fantasy titles came much more easily, but the sci-fi took over my brain and I kept thinking of more and more (not for under 12, though, as I read more juvenile fantasy than sci-fi).

    Many of these are “gateway” books to a series — I tried to avoid listing a series as a title, but I couldn’t help it for Narnia, and Deathworld should only have been one book to start with.

    Fantasy

    UNDER 12: Half Magic by Edward Eager, First Test by Tamora Pierce, The Littles by John Peterson

    YOUNG ADULT: So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane, Talking to Dragons by Patricia Wrede, The Chronicles of Narnia (7 books) by C.S. Lewis, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

    ADULT: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, Another Day, Another Dungeon by Greg Costikyan, Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

    Science Fiction

    UNDER 12: My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville

    YOUNG ADULT: The People: No Different Flesh by Zenna Henderson, Cachalot by Alan Dean Foster, Next of Kin by Eric Frank Russell, Mallworld by S.P. Somtow, Deathworld trilogy by Harry Harrison

    ADULT: Agent of Change by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Hospital Station by James White, Prostho Plus by Piers Anthony, Crashcourse by Wilhelmina Baird, The Starchild Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, Jhereg by Steven Brust, The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz, Skirmish by Melisa Michaels, Ties of Blood and Silver by Joel Rosenberg

    I’d have either a longer list, or a more carefully-trimmed one, if my books weren’t still packed in boxes from my last move. These are the ones that occurred to me off the of my head, and free-associating on Fantastic Fiction‘s bibliographies.

  18. A good one for any age is The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This one has Star Wars beat by a country mile!

  19. Fantasy

    UNDER 12: Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, Lewis’ Narnia

    YOUNG ADULT: Leguin’s Earthsea Trilogy (plus), Eddings’ the Belgariad series (only the first 5, and for the same reasons Dave above talks about Brooks – I loved these at a young age and they whetted my appetite for more healthy fare.) Bradbury – Something Wicked

    ADULT: Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books, Feist’s Magician series, Neil Gaiman,

    Science Fiction:

    UNDER 12: I think Card’s Ender has been mentioned, also Heinlein – Red Planet

    YOUNG ADULT: Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451

    ADULT: Zelanzy’s Amber, Green’s Deathstalker books

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