It's Time for Shared Reading

It's Time for Shared Reading

Reading along with your spouse
by Elizabeth Kauffman
for Real Families, Real Fun

My husband's nightstand has a Robert Ludlum novel, Men's Health, and the biography of Charles Lindbergh on it. Mine has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Elizabeth George mysteries, and maybe the latest Oprah recommendation. And never the twain shall meet--right? Wrong!

Well, I'll probably never read much Ludlum, but there are books we can enjoy together. Whether reading aloud to each other or silently sharing a book, usually in bed when the rest of the house is so nice and quiet, makes for nice shared moments. Or when one of us has had a particularly trying day, just being read to feels like a real luxury.

Jody and Chuck from Ohio take a different approach. Jody says, "We usually read our books separately. Chuck reads Tom Clancy, of course, and others along this line. I read a variety of different things. There are two books we shared recently--Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag and Toss by Boomer Esiason (a retired football player). Typically we tell each other if we think that the other would enjoy the book we just read."

Alison reports that she and her husband "usually talk about books that we are reading over dinner. If one of us particularly likes a book, we convince the other to read it so we can discuss it together." Among the books they both enjoyed are Slab Rat, a book by Ted Heller about the inside world of the Conde Nast empire. "It is very funny, especially as we both used to work in publishing." Both also loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Sometimes my spouse and I have other reasons why we want to read a book together. One winter vacation we shared a borrowed copy of Silence of the Lambs because we were both so scared and eager to read on. Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods was too laugh-out-loud funny not to share--especially if you've ever done any camping. Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself was really great because the essays were just short enough for some relaxation and still left time for sleep. James Herriott's books about life as a veterinarian in rural England fit that bill, too.

We had much to talk about as we read Cold Mountain even though we interpreted parts differently! Like a family in Nebraska, we read Harry Potter books to know what the kids are so excited about and to be able to share it with them. When we travel, we share a guidebook and choose what we'd like to visit and learn some history together. We each were interested and moved by Jon Krakauer's books, yet we often "audio-read" John Grisham's books for a lighter escape. Often we talk about people we know who would like the same books, and we send them on after we're finished. And we get some great finds in exchange!

Web Sources: Check out the megabookstore web sites to see what's hot and what's available from our favorite writers. Besides (a favorite spot for buying books for some of our reviewing families) , try (the Barnes and Noble site), which features some great author interviews. Also search for sites under your favorite authors' names and publishing companies, too. Recently we hooked onto Tom Bodett's web site of children's literature for grown-ups,

Chatting up the employees of local bookshops is another great way to get reviews. A young man at my local shop turned me onto Love in the Time of Cholera and Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume. There are lots of reading styles that you might appreciate so take a 50-page chance on one you wouldn't ordinarily have tried. For the true bibliophiles, Manguel's A History of Reading lets you do just that! Other titles that generate discussion include the Left Behind series by LaHaye and Jenkins, and Sarah Breathnach's Something More--recommended by the LaClairs of New York. Amy Mayfield counts on another source: "My experience has been that the best idea is to go with a word-of-mouth choice from a known reliable source."

Here are a few more of our finds or choices of couples we know--books that BOTH genders enjoyed:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden--a novel spanning the life of a geisha, based on the author's intense research of the geisha culture.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt--a group of Ivy league classmates and what secret they share.
  • Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres--Five decades of life on a Greek island, beginning in the 1930s.
  • God Is My Broker by Brother Ty (Christopher Buckley)--A fast-reading spoof on get-rich how-to books.
  • In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent--At first you'll think it's like a fast Cold Mountain but stands on its own as an original, rich story set in Vermont.
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr--Not a sci-fi piece as the title might suggest, this is a historical novel set in New York City
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - good story with endearing characters, the ends get tied up as well as Dickens'
    A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier--A Civil War soldier's journey home is seen from two points of view, his and that of the
    woman who awaits him.

    My husband and I have recently joined a newly formed book club with five couples. I had been in a all e-mail book club for about three years prior to this, and I must say a couples' book club is great fun! It is a cross between a gourmet dinner and a book club. So far we have read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. We are up next so we are in the process of deciding what book to choose. The ones so far have been great, especially the first and third!! So I would highly recommend those. --Amy Mayfield

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