Five Ways to Recommend Books to People with ADHD

Picture it: the early 1990’s. The Book It program by Pizza Hut is taking the school systems by storm! Free pizza for reading? Sign me up! Part of the program is that if all of the students met their Book It goals, the entire class would be treated to a pizza party. Sounds simple enough — read books, get pizza. Slam dunk. Home run. Touchdown.

Because it’s the early 1990s, there is an affliction going around that a lot of people either aren’t aware of, don’t know enough about, or dismiss it as new age bullshit: Attention Deficit Disorder. If you were a parent in that time, you couldn’t fathom the thought of your child having that thing they talk about on the news — even if you thought your child did, celebrities said the drugs to help with the affliction are bad and cause horrible conditions. No parent wants to put their kid through that. The kids themselves don’t quite understand why they can’t pay attention like the other kids.

The teacher’s final tally comes in. Everyone met their reading goal except for Timmy Williamson. No pizza party for you — thank Timmy, everyone. By the social constructs of 90’s elementary schools, Timmy will now be the de-facto goalie for every game of “Throw The Ball at the Kid We Hate.” Timmy feels like a dickhead. That feeling will follow Timmy throughout his life.

Now, before you read too much into it, I wasn’t Timmy Williamson. My ADHD didn’t completely manifest itself until I was in my early teens. I knew several Timmys. I, like Timmy, wanted to excel and be recognized for being excellent — we just had a disorder that prevented us from excelling in the traditional academic setting. I used the Timmy example for a two-pronged purpose:

  1. To demonstrate the routine struggles ADHD has on a lot of the afflicted, and
  2. To segue into this week’s blog topic!

For this week’s blog, I wanted to give some encouragement and guidance to the parents, guardians, and pals of people like Timmy. I promise you, Timmy wants to excel, and may even love to read, but finding books that will capture his attention will be difficult. This week’s blog: Five Ways to Recommend Books to People with ADHD.

  1. Recommend books that are fast paced & active – ADHD is a disorder surrounding the brain’s inability to regulate dopamine — for me, books that are rapid, successive, and keep ramping up the tension where the ones that kept me reading them. Long lulls in the plot, like long lulls in anything, were a quick way to get me looking for stimulation elsewhere.
  2. Recommend books in line with their hyperfixations — One of the most common symptoms of ADHD is hyperfixating one or two things, and not having the capacity to focus on the task at hand. Say your reader has a fixation on old horror movies, books like “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” might be up their alley. Bonus points if you can forecast their next hyperfixation and have a book recommendation ready for that one.
  3. Novelizations of shows / movies they’ve already watched — this sounds grossly counterintuitive, but it works! ADHD will often present with symptoms like anxiety. Ever notice someone with ADHD and anxiety will watch the same show over and over? Some folks believe it’s because we’ve already watched it and we’re not anxious about the outcome. To get your ADHD reader’s nose into a book,  consider suggesting a novelization of a movie they like, or a video game series. The Resident Evil series by S.D. Perry was HUGE for me getting my love for reading back.
  4. Books that have been described as “quick reads.” — one of the single largest frustrations neurotypical people have with those afflicted with ADHD is that they can’t see the value in getting the tough jobs done first. We see the value, we just have executive dysfunction stopping us from doing it. I can’t speak for all forms of ADHD, but my particular brand requires a momentum, of sorts, to get started with any substance. Books that don’t require a lot of attention span to begin with is a great way to begin that momentum!
  5. Recommend books that have a visually interesting cover — this one is tricky and counterintuitive. Ultimately, the book has to be visually appealing AND appealing to read. Considering the disorder is an inability to regulate dopamine, a book with a visually interesting cover is a great way to get that book’s foot in the door. Your homework, using this method, is to select a book to recommend that meets the dopamine stimulation requirements — once your reader is hooked, they are hooked!

The only other advice I have for you is to be patient. I promise you, your loved one with ADHD knows how frustrated everyone is with them. We want to work hard and be successful — we want to avoid getting the reports home and the disappointment from our superiors. There is a medical explanation for what’s going on and we’ll tell you about it if you listen.

Thank you for reading, good luck, and I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!

Songs listened to while writing this blog:

  1. “Slowdown” – Ignite
  2. “Savior” – Rise Against
  3. “Higher Ground” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  4. “Black Rose” – Volbeat

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