I tried starting a book group in grad school. Because we were all broke grad students, we decided not to require everyone to buy and read the same book each month. Instead, everyone brought one thing they read and liked, pitched it to the group, and loaned it to the person who was most interested. The money we saved on books was spent on wine. The down side to the system was that since we hadn’t all read the same book, there wasn’t much book conversation once the pitches were done. Much wine was consumed. Eventually we started meeting in bars, where they never ran out of wine. The books fell to the wayside.
This is kind of the story of my life. Even though I have family and friends who read as much as I do, I never seem to know people who have read the same books I have.
After spending an intoxicating two weeks in the heady atmosphere of Iceland Airwaves, where every conversation referenced books and music and was about matters of culture and spirit. I interviewed musicians who cited Elizabeth Gilbert and Tom Waits in the same paragraph. I had rational discussions of immigration policy with a Frenchwoman over breakfast. At a museum, when I bought a copy of a memoir by a Westmann Islander who had been captured by pirates in the 1600s, I expressed surprise that a survivor of that pirate raid had written a memoir, the woman working at the gift shop said haughtily, “We are a very literary people.” After that, it was hard coming down to the mundane world of day job particulars and school lunches.
I finished Halldór Laxness’ The Great Weaver from Kashmir, and desperately needed to dissect that one with others. A few Facebook comments and the Laxness in Translation web site (and thank god for that) were my only reference points. Then I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (much more on that one to follow). Several friends had already read it, and beyond a few “I told you you would like it,” comments, no one really wanted to talk about that one either. Now I’ve read Tiger Rag by Nicholas Christopher. It’s a preview copy for a review to post elsewhere, so of course I have no one else to bounce ideas off of before I write it.
So the other day my heart skipped a beat when a coworker said, “I’m reading the best book right now.” I almost held my breath while I waited to see if it was something I had read or an author I knew so that we could talk about it.
Then she held up a copy of The Omega 3 Diet, and I spent the next 15 minutes learning about her sister’s weight loss and the connection between Omega 6 and joint pain with a frozen smile painted on my face.