“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Even though reading is primarily a solo activity, there are so many fun and beneficial ways to build community around reading. We’re excited to start a new series that interviews “everyday experts” (avid readers that were gracious enough to share their reading wisdom with us) on how they read, what tools they use, how reading shapes their worldview, and, for today’s topic, how reading helps them build community.
Meet our everyday experts:
How does reading help you build community?
Carrie: In her book Introverted Mom, author Jamie Martin says, “Great friends can lead us to great books, and great books can lead us to great friends.” Reading connects us to other people in ways that few other things can. We find out someone loves to read—and what they read—and instantly we already know a lot about his or her personality, interests, and beliefs. Personally, reading has led me to form some of my most cherished close friendships, as well as to join the extended community of bookish people connected by a simple “Oh, I love that book, too!”
Josh: I share what I am learning from my reading with friends because new ideas and deepened perspectives beg to be shared with others. Also, a mutual love for a book is a great tool to begin a friendship or build on an existing one.
Larissa: I love talking to friends and coworkers about what they are reading. It’s always fun to connect with someone over a book you’ve both read and loved (or hated!). It also makes me feel more in touch with what’s happening in culture to read things that are popular or recently released.
Ellen: Reading encourages me that those who believe differently than I are not strange. It helps me to explore a community that is diverse. Reading is also a great way to build a community of people who have varied interests and can share what they learn about in their reading!
Nathan: Every time I read a book, I think of a friend or coworker who would probably be interested in it. Many of my recommendations also come from these people, so we can have conversation about what we are reading and how it relates to each of us.
What are some ways you read with others? Have you been in or are you currently in a book club?
Nathan: I have been in a couple of reading groups, but the main way I read with others is through discussion and recommendations. I love to share with people what I learned from a book and why I enjoyed it, and I get excited when they read it too.
Larissa: I am currently in two books clubs socially with friends, and I even make my coworkers do one as well to read books about marketing. I’ve also been known to buy my friends a book I really loved so I can get them to talk about it with me.
Ellen: Though most reading is on my own, I have been in book clubs before through church and with friends at work. I am currently in a book club through group counseling. I have also met weekly with a friend reading through a book, and some of the books I read are for seminary.
Josh: I am in a book club that just started two months ago. Our first two books have been books that I would not have chosen but have been beneficial to read and discuss. I enjoy the fact that there are other people reading alongside me who will bring greater insight that develops into meaningful conversations together. Also, my wife and I read together occasionally.
Carrie: I have never been in a formal book club, but informally my close circle of friends and I frequently discuss the books we’re reading and—if we’ve been reading the same book recently—we talk about our reactions to certain scenes, characters, or plot points. There are also groups on Facebook where avid readers of the same genre frequently discuss favorite books or themes, etc. As far as non-fiction, I’ve been in small group settings where we all read the same book and discussed it together.
Do you have any online tools or apps you use for reading recommendations and tracking, like GoodReads? If so, how do you use them?
Larissa: I am obsessed with my library app (I still use Overdrive but Libby is the next version of this). Ninety-nine percent of the books I read are either on my Kindle or an audiobook—all for free through the library! I sleep with my Kindle. I might have a problem. I use lots of book sites for recommendations—Modern Mrs. Darcy, PureWow Books, Penguin Newsletter, Off the Shelf, people I follow on Instagram, etc. I have WAY more recommendations than I could every actually read.
Nathan: I use Goodreads to track reading and see what my friends are reading. If I notice multiple friends have read a book, I am much more likely to pick it up. The recommendations that don’t come from friends often come from social media, be it Goodreads, Twitter, a blog, or a podcast. I follow several of my favorite authors, teachers, and thinkers on various platforms, and they often cite and recommend books they have read.
Carrie: I use Goodreads! Being able to “shelve” books on Goodreads by year read, as well as its own reading challenge (which I do participate in), gives me a quick glance at how many books I’ve read so far.
Josh: No, I’ve learned of the vast majority of my books from friends, co-workers, professors, etc.
Ellen: Not really, I find recommendations from the library and from friends who also read.