Reading is a culture in my family. No, strike that, reading is a compulsion in my family. My mom, dad, brother and I–and now my sister-in-law–are all voracious readers. It’s always been like that, and to this day we have an almost sacred respect for someone’s need to curl up in bed with a good book.
When I was a kid, especially on cold winter Sundays, my whole family would bundle up, get in the car and go to the bookstore. The minute we got there, the team would break out to our zones and explore for a few hours until we had all made our selections. Then we’d go home, my dad would make a fire and we’d all curl up in different corners of the house and read.
Even though we were all in our own little worlds, me lost in Narnia, perhaps; my brother immersed in a Stephen King nightmare; mom reading one of “The New York Times’’ top fiction picks; and dad sitting in his club chair with a biography of Churchill open in his lap, these are some of my most special family memories from childhood.
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In fact, it was how we observed Christmas Day. After opening presents in the morning, the tradition went that dad would cook breakfast and then we’d all spend the afternoon reading until mom called us for dinner.
This sense of communal reading has stayed with me into adulthood, even as my family has changed and my brother and I have moved on to our own lives. When I call home, one of the usual points of business is what books you’ve recently read, or want to read or heard about. Even my co-workers and I have our own little book club, recommending new reads to each other, talking for days about what we did or did not like about this author or that.
Even though a good book means getting lost in another world, it is a shared experience, one that is passed on from generation to generation; friend to friend. For those of us who are members of the tribe, anyway, it is one of the most exciting ways to connect with another person. Whether making small talk at a cocktail party, getting to know a new friend or making that weekly long distance call home, “Read any good books, lately?” is the birdsong of kindred spirits.
Do you enjoy reading alongside friends or family? Tell us in the comments!