I confess, part of me laughs when people talk about social reading.
There are, no doubt, things that are social that take place after reading. The discussions that arise about the books we read, whether in a real-life book discussion group or GoodReads, at a blog or in Twitter — that’s all social.
But, to be incredibly literal, reading itself is not a social act. It’s me and my book, and given I’m the type of person who likes my solitude and alone time, I’m perfectly happy with that, to be honest. Not only happy; my back gets up when I’m told that my reading now also has to be social, that my solitariness is not respected. We’re not all people persons. Some of us like that pleasure of reading — not writing, not creating, but falling into another’s worlds without interruption or distraction. Reading alone with a book is not sexy or shiny or new or loud, so it doesn’t always get respect.
That said, one of the pleasures of life is finding other people who “get” that about reading and respect it. Sharing time with such people? A blessing.
The answer: Reading Alone (Together) at by @helgagrace. In a nutshell: shared quiet reading time. The idea here addresses both the personal reading experience that is “alone” with the shared community of fellow readers: “That’s right, I am talking about reading as a social activity. Imagine spending a few hours at a friend’s house, reading on comfortable furniture and occasionally going for more snacks. One friend chuckles as she hits a particularly delectable passage. Another is completely absorbed in her book, which she is reading on her e-reader. A third has finished his book and moved on to one of his backups. The predominating sounds are pages turning and cats purring (it’s my fantasy, so there are cats).”
Before you laugh, let me tell you a story. You know how people have viewing parties — for sports events, season finales, award shows? I know someone who once complained about such parties because people attending actually wanted to watch what was on the TV and so what was the point of that party? The person didn’t get it; that shared viewing and sharing of the event WAS the point of the party, and carrying on non-event conversations in the room with TV was not the point.
These parties, in a way, are shared viewing time. So why not shared quiet reading time, as long as people respect the quiet and reading parts?
And yes, I realize some would say that communities used to have dedicated spaces for Reading Alone (Together) . They were called libraries. (Actually, not quite the same — friends, comfy furniture, food, but I knew if I didn’t say it here someone would in the comments!)