Our best advice for buddy reads

Our best advice for buddy reads

Readers, have you ever finished a book and thought, “I NEED to talk about this with someone?”

Buddy reading might be the perfect way to add more bookish conversation to your reading life. To start a buddy read, you and a friend pick one book to read and discuss together as you read or after you’ve both finished.

Some buddy reads involve a small group of readers, and some readers prefer to read as a pair. Some readers can’t get enough buddy reads (as Brigid Misselhorn shares on WSIRN Episode 275: How many book clubs is too many book clubs?) but many readers have never tried one!

Experimenting with new methods for sharing and discussing books can enhance your reading life in unexpected ways. There are countless ways to read with your friends, so how do you get started?

We have some avid buddy readers on the Modern Mrs. Darcy team. They’ve tried various formats, apps, and schedules—and set up buddy reads together! I asked them to share their best tips and preferences for buddy reading, and here’s what they said:

1. Set expectations from the start. Do you want to break down so many chapters or pages a day? Are you going to read at your own pace and check in along the way? How are you going to discuss: text, DM, Zoom? I’ve done all of the above but most frequently my friends and I read at our own pace and check in daily via text or DM, sharing how far we got, thoughts about what we’ve read so far (taking care not to spoil anything if we’ve read further than others), and then we do a big rehash at the end of what worked, what didn’t, our takeaways, and so on. —Leigh

2. Decide when to discuss. The main thing I like about a buddy read vs. a book club discussion is that I enjoy having updates during the reading of the book-not just at the end. The key for me has been to set a weekly discussion schedule and I often break the book into four parts with four “discussion dates” to avoid spoilers. I love using the Voxer App for that discussion since it’s easier than typing out my thoughts, and it’s always fun to share bookish enthusiasm by voice. —Donna

3. Think about the right number of people for your buddy read. I’m less inclined to participate in the discussion if there’s more than a few people buddy reading—too overwhelming! But for others, it’s the more the merrier. I have a few friends I do this with regularly, either 1:1 or there’s a group of four of us, and our discussions really bring the book to life. I love getting to go deeper on such a granular level. That, to me, is the whole point of a buddy read. —Leigh

4. Read what you own. It’s very helpful if you can all own the book; it is a bit difficult trying to wait for library holds, etc. and it can throw off your schedule. —Shannan

5. Take advantage of the format to smartly branch out. I have an easier time taking a chance on books I wouldn’t typically gravitate towards when I’m reading with a friend. This is a big way I’ve been able to enjoy a few horror titles, even though I tend to be a scaredy cat in my reading selections. —Anne (I couldn’t resist throwing in my own tip!)

Have you participated in a buddy read? What tips would you add to our list? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

P.S. The perks of reading in community and three questions to ask yourself (or your friends) after finishing a book.

P.P.S. Check out these WSIRN episodes for more buddy reading recommendations Ep. 164: The couple that reads together … needs to find books they’ll both LOVE or Ep. 273: Realism, redemption, and reading across generations.

Our best advice for buddy reads

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30 comments

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  1. Sarah says:

    I started a Bookstagram account to document my reading, and buddy reads have been the most surprising and delightful outcome. I have “met” so many lovely people, and it is so fun to know you don’t have to wait until the end of the month (like book club) to discuss. And I agree that it you can get to some books on your shelf that you’ve meant to read. I’ve got a buddy read discussion for Girl with the Louding Voice planned for tonight and upcoming buddy reads are Pachinko, Rules of Civility, Lost Roses, and Opal and Nev. Can’t wait!

  2. B Lee says:

    For me one of the few good things to have come out of lockdown is buddy reading with my friend Carole who lives in England. I live in the US. If the book is hefty, we’ll FaceTime half way through, but otherwise we talk after we’ve finished reading. We’ve found that while thrillers might be fun to read, they aren’t typically rich enough to make for a good discussion. The books we’ve loved and have loved discussing are WASHINGTON BLACK (Edugyan), WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS (Ishiguro), THE BEEKEEPER OF ALEPPO (Lefteri), THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX (O’Farrell), EUPHORIA (King), and SAY NOTHING (Keefe).

  3. Marcia says:

    I buddy read with two friends who were originally cross-stitching buddies. We all met at a cross-stitch store in Orland Park, Illinois, and we stitched together once a month for 7 years. Then I moved to Wisconsin and JL moved to Indiana. In June of 2019 we read a book together. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to do it every month. We took turns choosing the book, and because of library waits, we chose our books 4-6 months in advance so we could get on the hold lists at our local libraries. For the first months we discussed the book via text, but when Zoom became a thing during Covid, we switched to that, then Google Duo, which is how we meet now. Throughout the month we will text each other about our progress or thoughts, avoiding spoilers. I sometimes buy the book but not always. We love reading in community, and it also gives us a way to talk about our reading life in general, which we do through frequent texting. Reading together has enriched my friendship with these two women. We affectionately call ourselves SIRS (sisters in reading). We used to be SIS (sisters in stitching).

  4. Lisa says:

    I love this idea! I can’t commit to a book club but I often find myself wanting to talk about a book with someone. I’ve used Voxer (mentioned in the tips) for discussing professional reading but I think it would also be a great choice for Buddy Reading. I really need to find a friend to do this with for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue…I have questions!! 🙂

      • Adrienne says:

        I loved that book! I had borrowed it from the library but loved it so much my daughter bought me a copy, and I’m planning to reread it soon!

    • Lauren Gleeson Willis says:

      I also just finished this book. I missed my (new) book group where this was discussed! So bummed. Would love to discuss this book!

  5. Janet says:

    Some really helpful tips in this post. One of the positives for me to come out of the global pandemic lockdowns is my cousin and I starting what we’ve dubbed the Trans-Atlantic Bookclub. She’s in England and I’m in Canada. We read one book a month together,taking turns choosing the book. It helps get us each out of our comfort zones and puts books on our radar that wouldn’t ordinarily be there. For example,in March we read ‘Mermaid of the Black Conch’- I had to order it from the U.K. because it wasn’t available in print or ebook form in North America. Our April book was ‘A Closed and Common Orbit’ which my dear cousin admitted afterwards that she wouldn’t have normally touched with a ten foot barge pole. (Why it is specifically a ‘barge’ pole, I have no idea!)

  6. Susan says:

    I also started a buddy read during the pandemic, with a friend who lives 500km away. We need it to feel as stressfree as possible, so we do an email conversation once a month. Not much communique in the interim. We choose our books four at a time, to allow time to access them. We both make suggestions and then shortlist it to four, by mutual agreement. We alternate reading one suggested by each of us, and whoever suggested the book starts the conversation. We set a “launch week” as a launch day pressured us! I know, we are quite dedicated to a low-stress experience! We both love it and have decided to just keep going indefinitely, until one of us needs a break. We are on our twelfth title. Two of our favourites have been: “Radio Girls” by Sarah Jane Stratford and “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner. We are both anglophiles 🙂

  7. Laura Ingalls says:

    I think buddy reading is exactly what my reading life is missing! I finished The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune last week and I cannot stop thinking about it and want to talk about it with others.

    • Marty Suter says:

      I completely agree, Laura. I loved Cerulean Sea but would have loved to talk through some of the thought-provoking bits. I have a text msg chat with my daughter but it’s more an update about what we’re reading separately. I need to find a good buddy read connection too.

    • Terri Burkel says:

      Hi Laura.
      I too recently read The House in the Cerulean Sea and was surprised by how much I loved it. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it. Let me know. Thanks.
      Terri

        • Laura Ingalls says:

          I am just seeing this! So sorry! I would like very much to discuss. Myself and another avid reader started a Buddy reads group on Facebook. I am excited to try it out. I posted this article to help others understand the concept and get ideas. I am excited!

  8. Cathy Mills says:

    When I was a seventh grade teacher, we had reading circles. A group of 4-5 students would read a certain number of pages, then discuss twice a week. I had a bunch of generic prompts to help them look for things to talk about, such as “How has the character changed since the beginning?” They were better, more thoughtful readers by the end of the year.

  9. Ellen says:

    My niece and I started a buddy read that has grown to include her sister, a brother-in-law, and my son. One rule is the book needs to be a few years old so it’s easier to find it used or at the library. We text each other during the month with comments or questions to each other that can’t wait. We will also send links to each other if we find background information or reviews that we feel the whole group will appreciate. We meet by zoom which has made it much easier for everyone to be on time.
    We’re very comfortable with each other and I think more relaxed than a lot of “,book groups”

  10. A friend and I have been going through a book, several chapters at a time, now for the last few years. We moved away from each other and this is one of the ways we stay in touch. Calling and talking about our assigned chapters about every other week. Of course we also chat about other things. Then over the pandemic, three of us started a group call chat centered around a book. We just finished the first one.

  11. Amy Beckett says:

    Together, my husband and I read aloud books from my TBR shelf. It has increased our reading time this year and discussing the books as we go is a fun way to spend time together. It’s one of the highlights of our day!

  12. Marcia says:

    Thanks for all the good suggestions of “buddy read” books. I will be teaching college Freshmen in the fall and one requirement for the class will be to read two or three books and discuss with book buddies. I’d like to include at least one memoir. I’m trying to decide what books would be interesting and meaningful to young adults at that age and would foster insightful conversations. All suggestions appreciated!

    • Kara says:

      The memoir Educated by Tara Westover might be a good one for that age group (though please take note of potential triggers– it does detail some difficult subject matter).

    • Jennifer Bell says:

      Inheritance by Dani Shapiro! I read a hard copy of it, but I also listened to a chapter on her podcast, Family Secrets with Dani Shapiro. She recorded the audio herself, and it was fabulous. I think the subject matter would really appeal to college freshman.

  13. Rosann Whale says:

    My premiere workshop/course offering is along this line – we meet as a group to discuss a chosen book, but it’s so much more than just a reading/book group. As an expressive arts facilitator, I also incorporate various art modalities, which has been an incredible way to really dive into a book/story. I’ve created a workbook to go along with my creative process, and plan to publish this year!

  14. Brigid says:

    These are all such great tips and info on buddy reads! I too have made some wonderful new friends by joining buddy reads. And I love being able to discuss the book throughout in addition to the end. It’s such a great motivator especially for those books with high page counts!
    One tip I would add is having a real quick synopsis of what has happened so far at the beginning of the discussion. That helps refresh memories and keep those who have read further along from sharing a spoiler.

  15. Suzy says:

    My mother and I love to discuss books, but we’re often out of sync. Three months after I read a book, I often can’t remember it well enough to discuss it with her, a recent reader. So while she listened to The Invention of Flying by Sue Monk Kidd on CD, I read the book, and we loved checking in with each other—“Have you gotten to the part about—?”
    And then my sister and I both have “A Hundred Years of Solitude” on our TBR list and this year we said, “If you read it, I”ll read it!” That’s due to be done sometime in 2021.

  16. Stacey says:

    One of the great joys of the last few months for me has been buddy reading short story collections with a group of bookish friends from three different countries! We discuss a story a day. It’s not a big investment of time each day, it means we actually consider each story in a collection instead of flying through it (in which case maybe only a couple of stories would stand out) and it has me picking up authors I would have never found on my own! It is the perfect way to tackle short stories.

  17. Kristin Fields says:

    I just started a buddy read with my 11-year-old granddaughter today, She and I are trying to read 2 chapters a day either out loud with us alternating pages or reading the chapters on our own. I picked the book because I know she likes fantasy with kingdoms, princesses, and castles. I ordered two copies of the book Fairest by Gail Carson Levine from a second-hand online bookstore and sent one to her for her birthday with a note attached that talked about reading with her through FaceTime. I will be visiting her family in two weeks and hopefully we will continue reading and finish the book while I am there. I have really missed reading with them and this long-distance reading I hope will be fun!

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