How Reading Books Has Impacted My Relationships
I love reading. Books, specifically. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy magazines, newspapers, articles, blogs, columns, comics, and graphic novels. I read them all.
But there is a magic to books. That sentence may very well be a bit of foreshadowing as some of my favorite books are fantastical in nature. Far off lands. Otherly worlds. Monsters. Aliens. Witches. Fey creatures. Magic. There’s that word again. These topics ignite my childlike wonder and allow me to escape into the most wonderous of worlds and the deadliest of domains.
While my gushing excitement may indicate that this is all a new discovery to me, this love has grown from a young age. My parents both read to me early and often. I recall fondly laying in my heated waterbed (it was the 80’s, okay?) at night while my dad read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to me. I marveled at the description and the simply sketched image of Mike TeaVee, flat as a pancake and taller than before.
So, is it any wonder that it’s my second love? It was passed on to me, gifted really, by my first loves, my parents. How wonderful it is that an extension of their love for me during my childhood remains so prominently, even today.
My dad lives within an hour, and often times we’ll make recommendations to each other, and I’ll loan out my books to him. My mom lives much farther away, but just this past week, I bought her a book and had it sent to her. She was on chapter 3 within an hour of opening it.
As an adult, I have many more friends who read than I had while in high school. I think that is a good thing. It shows growth and improvement.
I never really had many peers with who I was able to discuss books. It’s not like it was unknown that I read a lot. I was the kid who showed up to a friend’s 7th birthday party with a book to read, just in case.
The habit followed me into my adolescence. If I was going vacationing up north with friends and their families, I would bring books for the drive. My mom cautioned me that some might think it rude. I don’t think any of them did. I was an excellent conversationist with adults in my teen years, and most parents enjoyed me. I think they just thought I was the sweet nerdy kid who always had a book with him, like a kid who still carries their special security blanket.
But today? I am able to converse with people about books all the time! Almost all of my friend group and closest friends are enormous book worms. That’s not even counting all of the conversations to be had and made accessible by the internet and social media.
Five years ago, I started a book club. I had been wanting to join one and meet some more local people who enjoyed the same kind of books that I did. There was an abundance to choose from. Dozens represented at each local bookstore. But I couldn’t seem to find the group for me.
Specifically, I was looking for a group that focused on horror, fantasy, science fiction, and some general literature occasionally. There were a few that focused on one of those. But not really any that incorporated all of those in one. Someone suggested that I start my own.
Frankly, it had never even crossed my mind that it was an option. The idea of it left me thinking, “Could I do that? Just tell people to come and talk about books with me at my house?” I was sold pretty quickly.
I conferred with some people on how best to start going about it. I set up a group page and put out open invitations to my social media. Five years later, we have close to 40 members, with 8–10 consistently showing up to every meeting. This past year we have still been meeting on Zoom, like everyone else. But before that, I would pair 3 different teas with each book that we had read and serve them to the members.
Everyone, myself included, would pick out a mentioned food item, theme, or regional cuisine from the book and make a snack that pairs. It was communal and joyful. Seeing how the teas paired with our little mini potluck was interesting.
And I love these people. One of them is a woman I met browsing the Stephen King used book section at a local book store. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, so I would ask her if she was looking for a specific book from him or maybe just talk about an author that was my first favorite.
I was actually somewhat intimidated to say anything to her. One, I have a hard time initiating conversation. I can engage in one very naturally… unless it’s the first time I’ve ever spoken to you. I overthink. I don’t know how to make a good introduction without feeling like I am interrupting. And two, she was quite attractive, which intensified my previous point.
But I worked up the nerve and asked her about Stephen King. Turns out, she loves horror books. Hates Stephen King. Little awkward, but we powered through and talked about books for about ten minutes. At the end of the conversation, on a whim, I asked if she was interested in joining a book club that incorporated horror. She said yes, and we exchanged contact information.
She showed up to the next meeting, which was like our 5th one ever. She’s been to every meeting since. She met and then started bringing her new boyfriend, now her husband, to the club. For the last year and a half, I’ve been running a D&D game with her and 5 other friends.
Books have absolutely impacted my friendships.
It is only so easy to deduce then that my family will be impacted by my book habit. If you let the image of my multiple large bookshelves tell the story, you might wonder if my wife is supportive of or concerned by my obsession.
She is supportive and increasingly so. She has picked up my habit. My addiction is now hers, and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Watching her grow into someone who used to read a couple of books a year to now 20+ every year is sheer delight.
My favorite thing about how books have touched our relationship is that they are communal for us now. With the book club, we both read the same book simultaneously, so we get to discuss the plot twists as they are happening.
That gets put on steroids most months when I read the book out loud to her. I long to read for audiobooks, and she really enjoys listening to audiobooks. Honestly, audiobooks aside, I will read out loud to anyone, just for fun. I love it. All of it. Being able to create the voices for each character. Mentally reading a few lines ahead of the sentence that I’m currently reading aloud in order to establish who is saying the words, what tone and inflection I should be using, etc., before I get to that spot.
Our communal habit plays out like this. After we put the kids to bed, we will do yoga or some other form of exercise for the evening. Then, we hop in the shower. Once out of the shower, we will either sit in front of a fire (if it is winter), in our bed (if its winter and we didn’t start a fire) or sit outside (if the temperature is above 60) and read for an hour or so.
While there is nothing cozier than reading in front of the fire, my favorite is reading aloud outside. When I start reading, the sun is just beginning to set, creating a fire red and royal purple sky. The robins and sparrows are loudly singing and hopping around the lawn. The next thing I know, I’ll look up, and it is dark. I’m reading by the porch light. The birds have quieted to give the crickets their turn to conduct symphonies. The stars are just faintly twinkling.
It is all delightful.
My children also benefit from my love affair with books. Or, at least, I hope that is the case. I’ve read to all three of them from the time they were babies, every night, and usually multiple times during the day. It progresses from picture books to chapter books until they inevitably feel they are too old for me to read to them before bed, usually around age 8, and start reading themselves to sleep.
But even after I’ve stopped reading to them directly at night, I hope they still reap benefits from my reading. At night, when I am reading to my wife in bed, I like to imagine that the deep timbre of my voice reverberates through the walls and gently lulls them to sleep. That, sometime after I’m gone, they’ll remember the way I sounded reading to their mother every night.
The other benefits are quite well known as well. Study after study shows the importance of reading to children at a young age. I’m quite sure that we practice this to the point of overkill in our house. On average, we probably read 5–7 books a day to our 3-year-old. One of his favorite things to do is grab books and climb up on our lap. The same has been true for our other two children. So far, the older two have both excelled in school, especially around language and reading comprehension.
Reading to my children is one of my favorite things to do with them. I hope they remember it fondly when they are grown and have children of their own.
My relationship with books has enriched my life and relationships beyond measure. They have always been my safe haven, a source of excitement, and something that I can continually look forward to.
I hope you have a similar relationship with books and reading. I hope you can find similar joys with them. At the very least, if you have children or other young people in your life, I hope you are able to encourage them to find the love that books can provide.
Happy reading, everyone.