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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Reading Alone Together

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!)

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. tanita says:

    It’s the equivalent of reading the paper on a Sunday with a group – reading bits aloud perhaps to each other, reaching across the person on the settee next to you for the bagels, but otherwise, reading in silence. Because, you’re, you know, reading.

    I LOVE IT. To me, it’s the mark of the kinds of intensely satisfying (and hard-to-find) friendships when you have friends who will shut up and let you read, but be in the same room with you. If that isn’t a true kindness of a friend, I don’t know what is.

    Oh, also, they should bring the bagels sometimes. Just, you know. To be awesome.

  2. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    tanita, there have been times when my visits with friends are all about reading books together. so much fun to be among people who get that. bonus points for bagels.

  3. Thanks for posting this link. I think it’s a great idea.

  4. John Barnes says:

    With the right significant others I’ve done reading weekends — check into well located nice hotel or b&b with a stack of books, schedule breaks for walks, meals, maybe a play or film in evening, otherwise just read. The cheapie suite types are often best for that.

  5. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Lisa, yes, it is!

    John, what a terrific getaway idea. I can just imagine calling the b&bs to find out about comfy chairs, what types of lamps and lighting, etc.

  6. Lazygal says:

    I think it’d be the perfect get away (and I know a place in Ireland that would work): pack few clothes, many books, stock up on nibbles and tea, share fireplace duty. Heaven!!

  7. Charlotte says:

    All three other members of my dear family are downstairs reading quietly to themselves…I shall now go join them! There are enough good reading spots so that no one has to be within ten feet of each other (unless they want to be).

    And what a relief it is to have weekend guests who can sit quietly and read to themselves! They are the best sort of guest to have.

  8. Leslie Klemm says:

    Have any of you read Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast? The brothers’ B&B is the perfect, albeit fictional, spot to read alone (together). I hope I’m remembering the title of this one correctly, because it is a wonderful little volume that I believe every book lover should read. It’s one of those books that actually did make me laugh AND cry.

  9. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    lazygal, Ireland sounds perfect!

    Charlotte, now there is a proper name for it! And yes, the best type of guest. People who don’t say “don’t you want to do something?” I am doing something; reading!

    Leslie, I’ll look for it! Thanks for the recommendation

  10. Louise says:

    When I was a kid, instead of family movie night or game night, we had family reading night. Every Wednesday we’d have an early dinner, then go to the library and each collect a staggering stack of books, stop at the gas station for soda and candy bars, go home, Dad would make popcorn, and we would all sit in the living room with our snacks and our books and read. My sister and I thought this was perfectly normal until we were adults and realized NOBODY else we knew did this. So sad! It’s one of my favorite memories from childhood.

  11. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Louise, I love it! Reading nights. Terrific idea.

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