Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reading Relationships

Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is the relationships we as readers create with one another. It used to be, and I think I've said this before, that I would hide my love of books. I felt weird and nerdy and alone. Then there came a point where I decided enough of that, and embraced the passion and celebrated the nerdiness. The reading relationships that have blossomed since then have made my "coming out" all worth it!

So what do I mean by reading relationships? It's that connection you have with different people, each on different levels for your shared love of the written word. It's the thoughts you have in your head that go something like this.... "I'm going to tell so and so about THIS book for sure!" or "I wonder what so and so would think of this book." or "I can't wait to discuss this book with so and so!"

When I was little, I'm sure I had a reading relationship with my parents, probably mostly my dad actually. I remember him browsing the library shelves with me and choosing books he thought I'd like. Then my grandpa would always (and stills does sometimes) ask me about what I was reading. He's been a major reading example in my life.

Then I went for years without really any particular reading relationships. I hid it from people. I was busy with little kids. (Perhaps my picture book reading to them was my main relationship at the time!)  I had no idea there could be such a thing.

Then came online reading relationships. One of the first things I discovered when we got the internet in our house (and I wish I could remember the exact year for fun sake... I think it was 1995 or 96) was that there were online book groups. Heaven! I discovered other people in the world liked to read! I was still cautious however, I mean this was the scary dangerous internet we're talking about here!

Ten years later, I started attending (and hosting) in real life book clubs. My reading relationships have now hit the real world! So today I bounce between the online and the real life. In the online, I feel like the leaner in the relationship. Bloggers are reading, and reviewing and telling me what's out there and what's good and what I should be reading. Publishers are send me things they hope I read and want me to review. Authors are promoting all sorts of fun and interesting books that I should be reading. Sometimes I listen, and sometimes I don't.

I then take that info and become the teacher (of sorts) to my real life reading buddies... making sure they know what all the great new books are, what everyone's talking about, what authors are cool and writing the cool stuff. Sometimes they listen, and sometimes they don't!

There are certain people who stand out in this reading relationship experience. For instance, my friend Jenny and I have an interesting thing going on. Though we are similar in taste in many ways (love for Markus Zusak and Neal Shusterman and most Victorian classics for example) we are also very VERY different in many ways. This, I feel, makes for a blast of a reading relationship! I never know what she will like or hate. And there's LOTS of books she hates! This is very different from me because I rarely hate any book. So it's fun to try and figure out what each other will like (or hate as the case may be.) She is much more discerning I guess is the word.... than I am... for instance she will bring up so many things that I would never see, and makes me think about a book much more than I normally do. I love that. I, on the other hand, am hoping to get her to embrace the emotions a book brings out, and to try and not judge a book by those emotions. She feels the emotion, but then bases her love or hate on the book according to those emotions. Sometimes anyway. (Jenny you can totally comment and say "Wait WHAT?" to anything I'm saying here!!) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that our very big differences, along with our similarities, makes our reading relationship really fun and interesting.

There are several other members of my in real life book club where I have interesting relationships according what I know they like. One member hates, and I mean HATES fantasy. We enjoy trying to get her to read it anyway. Another loves fantasy, but HATES nonfiction... we make her read nonfiction now and then! With my mom, I enjoy discussing the "gentle" books of which I posted about earlier. My husband used to be totally against YA and lately, he's learned it's pretty fun and I'm having fun seeing his attitude change just a bit.

It's also fun to have different reading relationships with my kids. Sharing YA romance/dystopian stuff with my teenage daughter. Enjoying some awesome middle grade stuff together with my almost 12 year old daughter. Discovering together things that my 16 year old son might like (and finding out it may not be what you think... like he might enjoy Room much better than Harry Potter!)

You already know, if you read a post or two back, that I've fond a fun reading relationship online with Ibeeeg because of our mutual Wheel of Time quest. I'm sure for us, this is just the beginning of many more connections we'll discover as we continue to talk about our love of reading.

Anyway, I think I could go on and on about all the different connections I have with people because of books and reading. One thing is for certain, I'm very glad I decided a few years ago not to hide this love of books anymore, because these relationships are priceless to me now.

What sort of reading relationships to you have? Do you find yourself more of a teacher? Or a learner? Do you have certain people, online or off, that you especially connect with.. and why? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I turned to the internet to build online relationships with other people who love books, because in the area where I live, no one is very interested in books or reading.
    I do chat about books with my sister and mom on the phone, and we make recommendations to each other, which is always fun.

  2. It was so fun to meet you the other night.

    Two of my former college roommates and I talk on the phone (we don't live near each other any more) every two weeks about the books we love. We set up a reading list for the year.

    I have a neighbor who loves books as much as I do and we're always sharing books and talking about them. Our neighborhood book club is such a hit that we regularly have 25-30 women (only 5 of us regularly read the book) attend and last month we visited until 4 am.

    My husband also loves books and we make each other read our favorites. We're constantly talking about books with our five children. Pretty much I'll talk about books with everyone I know and thankfully I've been blessed with lots of friends and family who love books too.

  3. I don't disagree with anything you said. But I still stand by my desire to read books that emit GOOD emotions. I'm glad of our reading relationship too. I've definitely picked up tons more types of books then I ever would have because of you and book club. Thanks for hosting it and persisting till I finally opened my mouth. Bet you wish I never had. ;-)

  4. What a wonderful post! I too used to hide my reading love feeling that I was just a nerd and no one else read a lot but now I have found, not just online, but in real life that so many people love to read and talk about it. It's a great way to break the ice!

  5. What a fab post! At the moment I'm still searching for someone to have a wonderful reading relationship with outside of twitter and the internet! It used to be my teachers, my school librarian and occasional friends. WHen I was younger, I never really had people my OWN age to talk about books with and I feel like I really, really need that. Still.

  6. I love this post. :) As an English teacher, I had that "nerdy" book girl label a long time ago, but am finding that people are really shunning that and want to talk about books! In fact, I have students and parents come in all the time to talk about books.

    Here's where I have always had issues. I like books that aren't just classics! People are usually a little surprised that I don't read classics and essays around the clock. In fact, I can't read things that make me feel like I need to pay close attention so I can teach them. I like to escape as much as the next person. LOL.

    I do have to say though that my BFF is a BIG reader, which is actually why we became so close. We both noticed that when we traveled, that we filled our suitcases and carry-on bags with books. We definitely have a "book" culture, and it's just so fun to share it online and with people we know and love!

  7. Interesting post. As a kid, I definitely hid my bookwormy nerdiness from anyone outside my family. High school, too, was all about being cool and reading definitely was not! I'm glad I'm an adult now and can not only accept my bookishness, but actually embrace and celebrate it. I feel like a "student" in the blogosphere since there are so many readers here reading so many different things, but more like a "teacher" IRL, since most of my friends aren't into books. My parents always supported and encouraged my love of reading, so I'm grateful for that :)

  8. This is an awesome post! Definitely thought-provoking. I used to hide my reading from other people, because I was afraid of what they would think of the books I was reading (Historicals and YA). But a few years ago, my cousins and aunts began talking about the books they read, and I realized we all read the same stuff! We've become good at giving each other recommendations and talking about which books we do, and don't like. It's been very refreshing, and I realized that I LOVE talking about books! I love the relationships it creates.

    Anyway, I agree with Susan above me. I feel like a learner in the blogosphere, and a teacher in real life.

  9. Your friend Jenny is very much like my friend Jody. I am a linear reader, I think. I don't worry if I understand every thing in the story; she does. For me, it is all about the whole story, and the parts I don't understand will work themselves out...or not. My reading does not lend itself to a lot of critical reading; catching nuances, subtle stuff, etc. I am okay with that. I think is very sweet that you have a friend who reads differently than you because I think it does add to the overall reading experience. For me, it also helps me to stop, pause...think. :)

    The reading relationship with the children is a fun one. I love it; the insights that they provide is fresh, and very neat to see.

    Thanks for thinking of me as a fun reading relationship. I think the same right back at you. :) Besides, now with our common love for Josh Groban, well, the sky is the limit...or maybe not because you know, there are aliens out there. :D :D

    By the way, I consider myself the teacher, and learner. I think, off-line, I am more of the teacher to those in my life except to my friend, I take that back as she does not really read what I do. On line, I do believe that I am learner due to my reading style. It has been fun to learn to be a bit more critical (not in a bad way) of books that I read; understanding things I have not considered before.

  10. Enjoyed this post!

    My mom was a voracious reader. She could chow down an entire Louis L'Amour in a day, completely ignoring all attempts by us kids to get her attention. Conversely, I'm a sporadic reader, meaning I read when I can, attend book clubs when I can and am very unpredictable in my book tastes. Never a teacher of books, I'm more a learner, online and irl. I like to ask questions about books and rarely do I ever have a forthright opinion on a book.

    And like you, I tend to take the entire book at face value and I don't critique as I read, unless the book is so page-rending-awful that I simply can't read it at all. Yet, I too find it enriching to hear from critical readers. What an interesting relationship!

    Because my family life and reading life are so sporadic, I tend to connect with people that allow for flakiness; some serious readers with high tolerance for non-serious readers and a lot of recreational readers.

    Love your blog, keep up the excellence!



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