I believe in reading books aloud with someone you care about.
Fourteen years ago, I got out my copy of William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride” and began reading it to my friend Blake. He got such a kick out of it that I kept going, reading more of it to him when we both had time until we finished it. We missed “The Princess Bride” so much that we moved on to other books. We started taking turns reading and listening, passing each book back and forth when we had one copy, and just about in hog heaven when we had two.
We traveled the streets of 1940’s Los Angeles with Raymond Chandler, celebrated courage with Harper Lee and were enchanted by too many other writers to list. We’ve loved fiction and nonfiction books alike.
My mom read to me when I was little, which I loved. But being read to ended for me with childhood, like it does for most of us. For the most part, after age 10 or so no parent, sibling, friend, significant other or teacher is going to read to us, for the rest of our lives. I never questioned that until I was in college, where out of the blue one day my boyfriend at the time started to read a book he loved to me. It was fun – really fun – and I began to realize what I was missing.
Sharing books the way Blake and I do adds companionship to all the usual pleasures of reading. I like audio books, but it’s much different to have a book read to you personally than it is to listen to someone you’ve never met on a CD. And it’s vastly different to read a book aloud with someone else than it is to read the same book silently by yourself.
We haven’t read books together continuously during the past 14 years, and we have to carve out time for each book we do read. We take some of our free time away from TV’s, computers and iPods and devote it to reading. We cover a chapter or a few paragraphs at a time, stop reading when we need to and pick up where we left off later.
When I look at my bookshelves now, I see more than the books themselves. I remember what was going on in our lives when we read this book or that one. I might look at a book and remember what time of year it was when we read it, or whether our lives were going well or not so great while we spent some time with that author’s words.
Months will pass without our reading a book together, and then one of us will discover a book we’d both like to read. After that it won’t be long until we’re sitting in the comfortable chairs, with our glasses on and good light behind us, and one of us says, “Chapter One.”
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