Thoughts on Reading With Friends

A few years ago, I felt intellectually isolated and started praying for something that felt a little peculiar: friends.

We are wired for connection, and everyone wants friends, so why is that peculiar? Well, I had a ton of friends at the time, and still do. They are wonderful, seriously, wonderful. The only thing wrong these friends is their location.

My friends are scattered all over the world living brilliant lives.

So I longed for friends to read with me and talk to me about ideas. This prayer, this desire of mine, this longing for people to talk to, was right in line with Eleanor Roosevelt’s well-known expression, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Where were the great minds? I wanted friends to hang out with that would talk to me about ideas, read books with me, and even recommend books to me. Simply put, I didn’t want to feel so lonely when I read.

Right around the time I was praying for this, we moved. My husband is in the military, so there’s no surprise there. When we relocated, I started a book club. We invited everyone we knew. At first, everyone we knew had to drive 2-3 hours to come see us.

But they didn’t really care about the book, they just wanted the company. They would try to listen to the audio version on the way to our home, but it wasn’t a huge priority. 

Every time we met someone new, I invited them to book club. People would come, but they didn’t come for the books, they came for the company. We cooked food, dined together, and enjoyed our conversations. This was what I wanted, but I couldn’t get over feeling like they viewed book club like going to the dentist or like book club was homework.

Deep down, my heart was breaking. Why don’t they see how rich this could be?  

We took a long and necessary hiatus. When we started book club back up, I kicked out the guys and made it a female only event. We kept it small. After a couple of meetings, everyone who attended actually read the book, or made their best effort to, and most of all, they wanted to be there. 

It turned into a potluck where we’d prepare a meal or bring food that related to the book in some way.

My friend, Sky, connected with the food in our reading in such an incredible way.

For Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, she brought Orange Juice, because it was used for making napalm.

When we read Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, she brought rice balls because that’s what the prisoners of war ate.

My friend Annie brought us into her world when she made a family Borsch recipe with her mom when we read Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground

Books and food have a really funny way of connecting people. 

As it stands, our book club is so completely inspired.

We read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves together, and the complexities of that book were fused together through all of our unique minds. When I say it was rad, that is a complete and total understatement. 

My background in critical theory could speak to certain areas, while my friend Catherine was able to translate the French.

My friend Audrey’s musical knowledge allowed her to read the music that I glossed over. I don’t know how to read music and would have never known the layer of depth in those last pages. When she sang the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” we all got goosebumps.

I wish I could bottle that feeling. Experiencing it together is something I will never forget. 

It was in that one single moment that I realized my prayer was answered in such a rich way. I have the friends I’d been longing for and it was better than I could have imagined. 

If there is a friend asking you to read with him or her, consider it a gift you can give them and a way you can serve them. Read with your friends: it will change your life. 

5 Responses

  1. Now that I’ve moved, I miss and desire this kind of interaction. I gained so much from you, the ladies of book club, and the amazing books. I feel like our minds were able to beautifully connect in a special way.

  2. Oh, how I wish we lived in the same area. I joined a book club, took all my literary analysis notes, and then was the geek who didn’t just come and say, “I liked it!” The book club was about being social, ok, but I wanted to discuss ideas and theories and use my very expensive education. I’m not sure I can hold my own any more; I’m more apt to discuss the benefits of PBS on a developing mind than Proust, but if only our husbands were at the same installation . . .

  3. I briefly lived in New York and reconnected with a friend I’d known online for years. She took me into her friend group. We started our own book club right before I moved to Toronto, but then we kept it up online! Our book club continued to meet every 1-2 months through Google Hangouts for about 2 years. Then we took a hiatus first so I could get married, and then because one member moved to Vietnam. That hiatus has lasted longer than expected, but we’re starting our book club back up again! It’s been such a fun way to stay in touch with each other long-distance.

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