Today's New York Times, and not even in the Book Review section, has Motoko Rich writing about "The Book Club With Just One Member." On many levels this headline caught my eye. And how could I not read an essay that begins with a quote from the new Newbery winner, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me. Miranda, the 11-year-old main character, has a favorite book which is entertwined throughout Stead's novel. She's read A Wrinkle in Time over and over, even feels it's her very own book, hers alone. "The truth is that I hate to think about other people reading my book.. It's like watching someone go through the box of private stuff that I keep under my bed."
Rich's essay ponders those of us who feel that possessiveness about the books we read and the ones who share their reading tastes via Book Clubs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. She makes a lot of thoughtful points, quotes from other of my favorite writers, even brings David Foster Wallace's books into the mix (along with Katherine Paterson and Lois Lowry).
One conclusion seems to be that there are books whose understanding is helped along by communal reading. Those challenging books (Wallace), the ones you never honestly got through in college (Ulysses). "Some books particularly lend themselves to collective reading--" she says, "partly, of course, because everybody is reading them."
I like the image on the New York Times' page. Reminds me of sitting in a tree reading Nancy Drew. Come to think of it, I can't remember ever wanting to discuss Nancy's latest escapade with too many kids. But I guess I outgrew that. Two-plus Book Clubs later, I've now pretty much stopped the communal discussions over a nice glass of chardonnay, but I do like hearing what others are reading and sensing the excitement. In fact, Rich acknowledges one obvious point- the more people talk about a book, the better it sells. "Some of the biggest sellers of recent years--Eat, Pray, Love...The Kite Runner...The Help-- were propelled by word of mouth."
OK, back later. After I update my Goodreads page.
Related posts: Katherine Paterson