The perks of reading together

The perks of reading together

Reading is often thought of as a solitary act, and no wonder. I love reading alone; it’s my favorite past time and introverted escape. It’s enjoyable and easy: all I need is a book, a quiet-ish moment, and a place to sit down. Although if the book is good enough I’ll stand up for it.

Reading is something I can do by myself, but a good book also brings people together. Book people are my favorite people, and when I finish a book, I want to talk about it with my fellow readers!

I love connecting over books, and have found so many bookish kindred spirits this way—people I feel a kinship with because we’re like-minded about reading and share the common experience of the text. A good book is a springboard to a good conversation, because “What did you think about that book?” is a surprisingly personal question.

Reading with others helps make a book spring to life for me. When I approach a book, I do it with my own history, my own understanding; when you approach a book you do the same. When we read together, we both enjoy a richer, fuller experience, because I can borrow your personal experience, and you can borrow mine. This wider understanding heightens the experience.

Reading with friends has helped me appreciate books I don’t love—especially when my friends do. Bookish friends show me the shortcomings of books I loved. It might hurt, but it nevertheless makes me a better reader. They show me what I’m missing when I read a book. And they make me love the good parts even more.

I love the back-and-forth with fellow readers on my podcast. I love hearing your take on the books I’m reading—and the books I want to read—here on the blog. And coming next week, we’re launching an online book club that will make that back-and-forth much easier. We’ll still enjoy the benefits of reading along (choose your own snacks! wear your pajamas! take a nap in the middle of chapter 4!) and we’ll add the benefits of reading in community.

Reading is a solitary act, but there’s so much to be gained from reading together. I’m so looking forward to reading deeper with you, starting October 12.

Update: The MMD Book Club is open!! Come on over! 

Talk to me about reading alone, and reading together. How have books forged personal connections in your life? How has reading a book in community brought that title alive for you? Tell us all about it in comments. 

the perks of reading together

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38 comments

  1. Pat S. says:

    I love it all! I love reading alone, in a book club, with friends – I even read books out loud to my husband in the car. (We are in the car a lot and always have a “car book” going.) SO excited about this bookclub!

  2. Cari B says:

    I recently moved to a new city and found a book club that is hosted by a local magazine. The group is diverse and we always have a great discussion about the books that we read. Even when many of us have disliked a book – the discussion is lively! And I love that aspect of books!

  3. susan says:

    I am the reader in my big family, my husband and 4 kids not so much…but I still will read beautiful well written passages to them and tell them about the books I am reading.
    ..one day the light will go on for them, I hope. And yes I am interested in this book club as well looking forward to it…

  4. Lydia says:

    Wow! this blog post completely echoes my thoughts and feelings about reading books. Talking about books, sharing my love for reading & making bookish friends are the reasons why I decided to finally start my own blog. I feel like you looked into my mind and stole my next blog post :D, Only you have somehow organised my thoughts into a wonderful & elegant blog entry.

    Thank you so much!
    (this is my first comment on your site, but i have been in love with your blog since i stumbled upon it last spring. Thanks for creating this amazing place on the interweb. )

  5. This year I’ve been doing a book club with my mom and it’s been a wonderful bonding experience. We don’t spend much time together, just the two of us, since I’ve grown up and moved out and begun adulting. It’s so nice to get together once a month at a coffee shop and talk about the book we read that month.

  6. Stephanie says:

    For some reason, when I read the title I thought you were going to write about the benefits of reading books with your kids, especially longer chapter books (or audiobooks on a roadtrip).

    My boys have been independent readers for years, but we still try to read several things together every year–it’s really fun to have additional common references and has led to some cute inside family jokes. =)

    But I do also treasure my two book groups! I get so much more out of books I discuss with others. Looking forward to your online book club…

  7. Lisa White says:

    I read Father Elijah to my husband to distract him from his woeful case of chicken pox in the early days of our family life. We’ve read together ever since. We are in a book club together as well. It is fascinating what the male of the species will pull out of books as opposed to my own viewpoint! We’ve raised a family of five readers (occasionally one or two will join us in the book club) simply by reading to them and having them see us read.

  8. Donna says:

    I love this post, so well said. As a fellow introvert I had never quite gotten myself to join a book club until your summer online book club and it’s been fun, inspiring and I know I’ve gotten more out of the books than I would have otherwise (like I hadn’t picked up on the time structure of A Gentleman in Moscow). I can’t wait to see the new book club site, I’ll be signing up on the 12th.
    p.s. I also love the idea that you’ll be expanding it to include things like the book bullet journaling lesson/class.
    p.p.s. (Sorry, can you tell I’m excited about this?) It was great to hear about your fall selections in the video on Facebook, it reminded me that the other wonderful thing about a book club is it gets you to read books you might never have heard about or been concerned about the topic like One in a Million Boy which is still my favorite from the summer.

  9. Marie says:

    I am an expat in Lebanon, and will soon be moving to Turkey, and I was just complaining to my husband last night about how much I have been craving a book club. I hope to start one in Turkey–perhaps with an expat community there.
    My friend and I used to get together every Thursday evening and read book chapters aloud to each other. It was delightful. We read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and The Moviegoer together. The first book was absolutely perfect for reading out loud, because there are two voices. The second was a little slow, but we enjoyed ourselves so much. We have similar tastes, and we continue to give each other frequent recommendations.
    I’m excited to see what you’re planning!

  10. Last Christmas my son-in-law gave me the gift of reading 4 books together in 2016. He picked two and I picked two. I have never done a book club or anything like this, so I wasn’t sure about it, but it has been so great! Talking over books with someone enhances the reading experience greatly. I thought I didn’t care for a one of the books until we talked it over and then thought, “I guess I did like that book.” What a fantastic Christmas gift! I highly recommend it!

    • Joy says:

      Hi Dinah – I participate in a “book club” with my partner: just the 2 of us! I briefly joined a traditional group but ended up feeling stressed out by the need to read-to-order (or that’s how it felt). And then there were the folk who never read the set book but took over the discussion because they liked to hear the sound of their own voice! I know folk who love their book groups but this one wasn’t for me. My mini book club has rules – we take it in turns to choose (we have very different tastes); we have devised some questions to guide us and the discussion must take place away from home so it becomes Date Night too! I’m intrigued by the idea of an online reading group but I also recommend a twosome, as with your son-in-law – he sounds lovely and thoughtful!

      • Beth says:

        Hi Joy – Hi Dinah!
        I was hoping the article was about SigOthers reading together but I liked it all the same. I love reading with my BF, on the couch or in bed at night. Your M/F perspective bookclub is a great idea! I assume you just buy two copies of the same book? I love the taking turns idea too. My parents read together every night; they’d get into bed at the same time, read for about twenty minutes, then turn their lights off. It’s soothing, and I love that it usually leads to some form of cuddling.

  11. Beth B. says:

    I can’t wait to get more details! I actually don’t usually read simultaneously with other, with the exception of past Bible Studies or school assignments. But I love the idea of reading a book for pleasure in company. My husband and I sometimes read books aloud together. 3 kids later this habit has all but disappeared, but we read the Harry Potter books and a few others that way. I love being able to dissect a book afterward, just like I love analyzing movies. I’m definitely intrigued!

  12. Olivia says:

    Being just a few years out of college, I enjoy talking with some of my book-ish friends from that time over the phone. Specifically, I have a friend that re-reads Jane Austen’s novels just about as often as I do – both of us re-read Persuasion this year, independently of each other. 😉

    That being said, it’s also very enjoyable to talk books in person, though I have yet to join a book club or anything of that nature in my 20s.

  13. Katia says:

    The last time I discussed a book with someone was in university, 8.5 years ago. Sine then, I have been a largely solitary reader but get excited whenever I meet someone who is currently reading a book that I had read recently. I don’t usually feel comfortable starting conversations with ‘strangers,’ but if there is a book to discuss, all my tendencies to be timid quickly fall away. I attempted to start a book club among the women in my neighbourhood, but it didn’t work out, mainly due to other priorities and conflicting schedules.

  14. Cassie says:

    I am desperate for a book club! I’m a stay at home mom, and I’d love the bookish fellowship of a book club. On online group would be so easy with the crazy schedule of a little one. However, we are living on 1 income, and our budget is TIGHT. I’m mostly at the library and free ebooks… thank you for the kindle deals! So I’m so hopeful you’ll have a way for us to participate even if we can’t pay a lot to do so! Thanks for all you do!

  15. Penny says:

    I love the concept of a book club. We move a lot and I have been privileged to participate in two true book clubs…meaning, the members actually read the titles and participated in the discussion. My other experiences have left me frustrated because I’ve invested in the reading and show up to discuss only to learn no one else has read. To make lemons out of lemonade, I at least try to talk with them about reading habits.

  16. Katie says:

    When I was little I never read, then in college when I was Student Teaching at a Middle School they were CRAZY for the Hunger Games Books that had just hit the market. The kids and teachers were reading the books and having these AMAZING discussion. I read the first book in the series and was HOOKED, and it gave me a way to connect to my students that I didn’t have before. That is when my reading really picked up and had I not felt the need to discuss the books with my students I might not be the reader I am today. Even now I try to read Young Adult books just so that I can have those conversations with my students and encourage them to read. I also teach reading to 6-8th grade and we read novels as well as the HUGE literature books. The kids LOVE IT, they read it at home and I read it to them in class. We have great conversations, and they are excited about knowing what happens next.

  17. Mary Kate says:

    Well said! I was in a real-life book club a few years ago. Everyone got too busy and it disbanded, but it was so much fun getting over wine and cheese and talking books. Only downside was they made me read a few books I really didn’t like and wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, and I found myself annoyed that I’d spent time reading those books instead of the millions on my own TBR, but the benefits far outweighed the downside. This sounds intriguing, though I’d love another in-person one to be a part of, too!

  18. Grace says:

    Oh man, I’m so jealous. I don’t really have other friends who are readers, so I never get to talk about shared book experiences in person. That’s part of why I love being able to connect online. I’ve thought about joining a book club, but I’m terrified to go alone (I’m a shy introvert), and I have a hard time prioritizing reading a book that someone else has picked for me when my own to-read list is sooooooo long. Although I’m sure it would be beneficial to me to both get out of my comfort zone and reading books I wouldn’t normally choose myself.

  19. Melody Maynard says:

    I just finished the required courses for a minor in English, and the togetherness of those required readings was my favorite part of college.

  20. Karyn says:

    I am so thrilled that you are going to do this! I have missed being in a book club and share books with other. A friend and I get together once in awhile for dinner and discuss books, but I miss the book club. I was in a book club once where (like your recent guest on the podcast) reading the book was secondary. It was more a social thing…and I wanted to talk about the books.
    I have always been reading….I love to read by myself, read to my kids. The only thing I haven’t been able to get into is audiobooks. I love to listen to podcasts but audiobooks are not something I can get into.
    I am so excited for this book club.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I’m so excited for this! I’ve wanted to get into a book club but I haven’t done it. I think this is the perfect format for discussion and love that it can be done whenever is convenient.

  22. I have always loved reading, but didn’t really get serious about it until my late 30’s. Now I LOVE reading with my children! They are 11, 11, and 7 so we can select a bit older title now that they all enjoy, and it such a wonderful way to connect with them, and a time we look forward to every night. We are currently reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and it is fantastic!! The illustrations are so beautiful, and we love “reading” the illustrations along with the story and try to guess the outcome. Has anyone else read this one yet? Thank you Anne for this blog and all the work you put into it. It is absolutely my FAVORITE read!

  23. Andrea Wells says:

    I love reading aloud with people I am close to – my kids, also sometimes my sister or husband. It provides opportunities to talk about things we would otherwise never discuss and even better it is comforting. Right now I am reading LM Montgomery’s Emily series with my 9th grade daughter before bed. Sometimes my other girls pop in my room and listen for a bit, but it is mainly special time for the two of us. It’s my promise to her that at the end of her long day away from home, we will go someplace beautiful together. Emily is a gorgeous book full of family and friendship and faith in God’s glorious world. I think my daughter and I will always remember her freshman year of high school as the year of Emily.

  24. Kim says:

    I can really relate to feeling at peace with a good book! Nothing quite fills my soul as this quiet time to let the rest of the world fall away & enjoy a great book! I’m excited to get started with the new book!!

  25. Sara says:

    I was a complete bookworm as a child, and adored the literature degrees I did as a teen. But what with four children and crazy-busy-working and the internet I got out of the habit. I had a sense of loss and also dismay at my shorter concentration span- I was becoming wired to follow/seek out new links… So on sabbatical I ‘taught myself to read’ again. I started with entertaining chick lit and am pleased to report I am again reading widely and deeply.

    One rom-com I enjoyed recently was Jenny Colgan’s The Little Shop of Happy Ever After. It is an extended meditation on the pleasures of reading, sharing books and the power of books to connect and heal. (8 uncomfortable lines heads up)

  26. Theresa says:

    I loved literature classes in college and discussing books and listening to how others saw the same passage differently, because as you said, we bring our own experiences and ideas to our readings. Then I taught college English and enjoyed discussing literature with the students. Now, I enjoy discussing books with anyone I can. My son and I read a lot of books together in his homeschool curriculum and he is fun to discuss books with, as once again he often sees things a bit differently. This also reminds me of what happens when I reread the same book a decade or more later. Every time this happens I see so many different things in the book as I have changed and grown and now see the book a bit differently. Reading just has so many types of fun.

  27. Sandy Nawrot says:

    I’ve been a reader since I was a child (and stealing my mom’s books). I push books on to every person I come in contact with…my friends, the ladies at the gym, my husband’s co-workers, my dental hygienist, etc. This is why I named my now-defunct blog “You’ve GOTTA Read This” because that is what I say to people 18 times a day. I’m in two books clubs. But the biggest impact on my reading life has been as a blogger…I’m sure you are in the same boat. I have made lifelong friends through blogging, and many of these people I’ve not even met in real life before. Others I have, when traveling or we will meet up at a SIBA. Once you connect through the blog, then you become friends on Facebook or Instagram or Litsy, and pretty soon you’re just in a huge mosh pit of literary talk, all the time. It is wonderful and very rewarding.

  28. Britany says:

    Just catching up on older blog posts now and I am in a couple of book clubs online through GoodReads and I just can’t imagine my reading life without them. Perfect combination of book discussion and jabbering.

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