Friday, May 23, 2008

Communal Reading: There's Nothing Like It!

We already have established that I'm a compulsive reader. Nothing is safe from my eyes. I would read an aspirin bottle over and over if it was my only source of reading material. (Perish the thought!)

Now, the question is, "What brings me joy when I read?"

I discovered it this weekend as I picked up the book Fluke. Carole reviewed it and loved it, and I thought I'd read it, too. I had just finished Julia's Chocolates and posted my revisit of the book to compliment Carole's review. As we talked about the books she had read that were perched around my house, I watched her peruse two books she was interested in starting: Under the Tuscan Sun and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

"Tell me when you start that one!" I said as I picked up the latter title from the pool table. "I'll start it, too, and we'll read it together." Then I sighed. "I miss that."

What brings me joy when I read: sharing.

Oh, I'm not that altruistic. The act of reading is very pleasurable for me and I'd do it alone. I have. But how much better to share the discovery of a book with a friend?

Carole and I anxiously await the next book by Jasper Fforde or Geraldine Brooks (to name just a couple of our faves). When we get the new book in hand, we choose the day we start, and that's when we crack the spine on the book. It's great to compare where we are and what did we think when — well, you get the gist. I love the conversations that begin, "Where are you?" No salutation, no lead — just the meat (or, for us vegetarians, the tofu) of the conversation.

There are times when one of us sallies forth into the water, then waves our companion into the water. There are times when one of us should. (Or not. Need I mention The Last Templar?) Then there are times when the sand and surf are perfect and we splash in together, jellyfish and horseshoe crabs be darned!

I love when Carole sallies forth. She waves me into some great treats. I love to do that for her, too.

I also love to toss in some unknowns ("It looked good" or "The jacket is intriguing" or "It won the Costa Book Award in 2007, and Geraldine Brooks has a favorable blurb on the cover"). One never knows if the title will pan out, or if the blurbs were more mercenary than honest. Sometimes she loved it and I couldn't find a hook. Other times Carole can't get past the sloth on page 50 (if it's big enough, who could?).

But as nice as the quiet, solitary read is, nothing quite compares to the phone call that starts in the middle:
"Oh, my stars, I can't believe how Jack finally told Mary about the painting!"
"I know!"

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