I have never been the member of a social bookclub. It’s kind of strange, because reading is one of the few activities I have always made time for. 1
The thing is reading is fundamentally asocial for me. I enjoy reading or listening to criticism on books I’ve read, but mostly, I enjoy reading and thinking about things myself. I don’t want to be an active participant in literary criticism. I read to learn and I read to feel. So much of my fiction reading, and really my consumption of all creative works, is about having a meaningful emotional experience without vocalization or analysis. So much of my non-fiction reading is about trying out ideas and hearing the steel man argument from someone I have no personal or emotional relationship with.
I don’t really want to be in a bookclub. I don’t want to have to find words to express why Piranesi was beautiful, or the meaning I found in The Hidden Palace , or how The Midnight Bargain’s simple surface feminism still had me pumping my fist in the air. I don’t want to have a pot luck about these things once a month, turning my joyful reading into homework.
But, I do want friends who know The Starless Sea was breathtaking, who can find themselves fantasizing of the bonds of found families in Becky Chamber’s books , and consider the power of stories from Alexandra Rowland’s books , and delight in being lost in Naomi Novak’s fairy tale worlds . We don’t need to have a bookclub, but I know we’d be fast friends if you connect with the same art that I do.
While I rebel against Rob’s recognizable and childish, “… what really matters is what you like, not what you are like,” I understand how powerful that line is. What you like so often reveals what you are like, in inexpressible ways.
Most of my friends don’t read the books I read. I wouldn’t even recommend that they do. But there are a few people who share my tastes and I can’t help but to feel this keeps us connected in a different, powerful, and intimate way through the years. 2