Reading is often considered a solitary act. In many ways this is correct: Our brains interpret non-pictorial marks on paper and instantly stories full of characters we’ve never met living in places we’ve never visited occupy our minds.
And because these stories play out within our own minds, with no physical affect on reality other than the opening of a book, reading can seem as solitary as daydreaming. Many appreciate the quiet relaxation of reading alone, but reading doesn’t always need to be a solitary act.
Reading is, in fact, a form of listening — listening to the author. By listening to others, we are not alone. Though the author is rarely if ever with us physically, they are with us through their words. In this way, books allow a magical form of immortality; readers may hear the voices of writers from decades or centuries past.
There are many ways to share the act of reading. Many couples enjoy reading the morning paper together — they read different sections then trade with their partner. Even reading in the same room as a friend can make the act less lonesome, regardless of what each person is reading. Readers often face the need to discuss the books they’re reading with another person. What did you think of this chapter? How did you interpret this event? Why do you think the character was motivated to do this? Find a friend to read the same book with you, and informally discuss your reactions to it as you go.
Reading out loud to children is an inexpensive and fun way to spend quality time together. Reading out loud as a family teaches them the love of reading and allows the perfect entertainment for taking a break from screen time. It helps children learn and develop character. It also provides caregivers with something to talk about with their children.
Audiobooks are another great option when you want to share a story with a friend. If no one in your group is up for reading for long periods of time or you’re working on a project that keeps your hands and eyes busy, audiobooks are the perfect choice. Professional voice actors or sometimes even authors themselves will do all the hard work for you. Audiobooks are available in a handful of formats from the Latah County Library District, including CD books, MP3 discs that can be played in computers and some stereos, PlayAways (palm-sized battery-powered devices that can be hooked up to headphones or speakers) and OverDrive.
OverDrive is a program that can be accessed through a webpage or app to play thousands of titles from your computer, phone or tablet. OverDrive will allow you to download the entire book when you check it out, so you don’t have to use data if you’re leaving your internet connection. When the title is due back, it will automatically expire on your OverDrive app so you never have to worry about late fees.
By joining a book club, be it at your local library or by organizing one with your own friends, you can read alone but have a great conversation about the book at the end. The LCLD hosts two book clubs each month and has more than two dozen book club kits available for checkout. Book clubs can help foster amazing dialogues in a fun and inviting social setting.
It will never cease to amaze me how two people can read a single text and, often painted by their own experiences and interests, extrapolate different meanings from that text. By discussing the book with other people, you may discover there was a connection you missed, an angle to a situation you hadn’t considered, hidden meaning in a detail you overlooked or plunge headfirst into the rabbit hole of fan theories.
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your book, I encourage you to share the experience with a friend or new friends by joining a book club, and see how it transforms your reading process.
Amy Thomas is the Adult Services Librarian for the Latah County Library District.