Book counseling; Or, Reading misery loves company

A few weeks ago, a work friend asked me to read a book for the sole purpose of having someone to talk to about the ending. Because I’ve been that person before, I read the book: Veronica Roth’s Allegiant. The next day, the friend asked if I had read Allegiant yet. I said no, because while I’m a fast reader, I’m not that fast. I have to get some sleep in order to function at work. Caffeine can only take you so far.

The weekend passed. I read the book on Saturday night.

Reading late is nothing new.

On Monday, I told my friend that I’d read the book. We had a thirty minute or so conversation about what worked and didn’t work and what we would change. At the end of the conversation, the friend admitted relief that I thought pretty much the same things about the book that he did. Relief. What a curious emotion to feel after talking to someone about a book.

I probably would have read the book anyway. I’d read the first two in the trilogy, after all. But I mostly read the book because it’s so rare that I can talk to someone (not on the Internet) about a book. After talking the book over, I felt like a book counselor*, helping someone get over the trauma of Allegiant’s ending. (Yes, we could have put the book in the freezer, but we didn’t have one handy.)

Of course, it might have been a plot to share the misery of the book’s ending around. I’ve done that. I talked a friend into reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena just to share the emotional impact of the book around. I didn’t want to be the only person rocked by this book. I’ve since talked two other people into reading the book. (I don’t regret this so much since I learned about Josh Hanagarne’s What Not to Read Club.)

I don’t really recommend spreading misery around as a motive for giving book recommendations. You’ll kill someone’s love of books eventually. The whole experience, though, has got me thinking about the social ties readers can form. Reading is a solitary activity, but I haven’t met a reader who didn’t want to talk to anyone who would listen about books and reading. We’ve all had books that touched us deeply and that can lead us to reach out to one another, to share the magic.


* I’d say book therapist, but that’s been claimed, apparently.


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