The Magic of Being a Bookish Older Sister

My little brother will be going to college this year, and I cannot wait for him to start. He’s planning on majoring in marketing or business because he’s good with numbers and with people. Of course, he still has to take classes that will require him to read book after book. I know that all classes are important in a college education, but it’s the classes that will have him hunched over a book that I’m most excited for him to experience.

I’ve been pushing books on him ever since he was in middle school. I’d throw him title after title until he stopped listening to me. I suggested The Giver by Lois Lowery, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and other classic young adult books. Sometimes he read them, sometimes he didn’t. And sometimes he just skimmed the pages and said he read it. Or he watched the movie.

It was a different story when he got to high school, however. I think that’s when he realized that you actually have to read the book cover to cover in order to go above and beyond, especially when you’re in an AP class. Whenever his teachers assigned him a book to read, he came to me and asked if I had it on one of my bookshelves. And of course I did. What kind of a bookworm would I be if I didn’t?

I still remember the first book he asked me for: 1984 by George Orwell. I had some sleepless nights when I first read the book, and I secretly hoped he would too. Sadly, he did not; he just drew the usual comparisons about our government and Big Brother. Regardless, I was excited that he was reading books and talking to me about them from time to time.

The joy I felt whenever he came to me for a book is a joy only book lovers will understand. Oh, you need Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for class? Done. (Props to his teacher by the way, for putting Morrison on the reading list.) When he needed a book with humor in it I brought out the classic Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. And when he needed a book with good examples of literary devices, I sent him down the Sherman Alexie way with The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

Through my little brother’s book needs, I get to relive a lot of my previous reading experiences. When he comes to me for a book, I’ll have to look through my bookshelves and rediscover books that I might have forgotten about. And sometimes he surprises me with titles I have yet to read, such as The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I was so happy when he told me it was one of his favorite books he’s read in high school. My little brother is down with feminist texts!

We don’t usually visit bookstores together, but when we do, I go all out. I point out books I’ve read and what they can teach him, or I make recommendations based on movies or video games he likes. I imagine this is what bookish parents must feel like whenever they bring their kids along to the bookstore.

I love being the one that introduces him to certain books. I had to wait until college to discover the books that taught me so much about the world, and so passing these books on to him feels like a sisterly responsibility that I will gladly take on. Whether he needs a specific books for class or just wants a recommendation, I will be there with books that will teach him about the world as he enters his early adult years.

Samantha Irby and Robin Sloan talk about their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.
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