An admission about me: I don’t allow anything to get between me and my love of reading. Few things in this world have enough power to convince me that putting my reading aside is a good idea. I am a certified book-crazy person, who might unintentionally come across as someone who’s any or all of the following: antisocial, nerdy, avoidant, and hypersensitive about certain things. I can accept all these things about myself, and I hope you can as well. (If you can’t, please read no further; there’s nothing here for you). Books have become such a part of my life, they might as well be a component of my DNA. Depending on the severity of any emergency situation, I might put my book down, but then again I might just say “let ‘em figure it out on their own” as I flip a page.
Don’t worry though, I’m well-adjusted in many ways and not socially stunted in any major sense of the word. I won’t lie: I prefer books to people, and the only people who come before my books are those I’ve intentionally prioritized over reading. (By the way, those people are pretty fucking awesome to have found a place on the “inside”). While my circle is quite small, I’ve found a way to make it work for all involved. I’ve done the impossible and smoothly incorporated books and the important people in my life! How is this even possible, you ask? Aren’t the two diametrically opposed? I once thought so, but it’s time to let you in on a little strategic secret of mine: it’s called the Long-Distance Book Buddy Read (LDBBR), and it’s pretty freaking sweet!
It all starts with the sad reality of a long-distance relationship, and the fact that someone who’s very emotionally close to me is very far away from me physically. Since I don’t belong to an actual book club or social group beyond the ones I cultivate on the blogosphere, I have turned to the book beacon at the end of the long-distance tunnel. Several months ago, my fiancé unofficially signed up to be my Long-Distance Book Buddy. I have found solace in the fact that my significant other is a reader and enjoys this arrangement as much as I do. (Life without a reading partner is too depressing to contemplate, and I banish the thought.) I’ve discovered the key to happiness at the bottom of the long-distance well and it’s the LDBBR.
Although the LDBBR is still very much in its infancy, I feel that it has already provided both my fiancé and I with additional inspiration and motivation to endure the hardships of a long-distance relationship. Say we’ve each had a long, hard day, and don’t have much to report on the activity front. In place of the “How was your day?” “Long…fine. How was your day?” monotony, our book bond actually provides us with something to talk about during our daily phone calls. As an added bonus, it also helps us divert our attention from the fact that we miss each other’s company so much. So, not only does it work on a practical level (books and the person I love, yay!), it works on an emotional level as well. Everybody wins, (except possibly the person who needs to use the phone while we’re discussing plot points and character analysis!)
Curious as to how it works? Well, we usually start by deciding if we’ve got time to start a book in the first place and we usually decide “yes” pretty quickly. (Note: “If you don’t have time to read, make time to read”). Then we consider our options and toss around a few nominations while considering which books we’ve been meaning to read. We might decide to try the new Stephen King, or maybe we’ll choose to read another author or different genre entirely. (Last year, we were on a crazy Chuck Palahniuk kick, spurred by the October 2014 release of “Beautiful You”). There’s no rush; it might take a few weeks to actually settle on an author or title, as availability is a factor in deciding a buddy read. (He’s got the title on his shelf but I can’t find it at my library, for example.) If the title is on both of our to-read shelves, it’s most definitely a contender.
Our current LDBBR is “World War Z” by Max Brooks, a novel he’s read several times and highly recommends. Since he owns the book and loves it with a passion, and I found a copy at my library, it was a go. (I’m always interested in trying out new genres and authors; I’m not afraid to step outside the box). Since I offered up “Revival” by Stephen King last year and that one has fizzled out, we decided to push through with another one. I’m happy to report that this one has been a success for both of us! It’s a great, entertaining novel and we’re both about 70 pages in. (The only downside is I have to remind him not to reveal spoilers because he’s already read it! This keeps him on his toes, I’m sure).
Reading and having a common connection is the point, but discussing the books we read is also a major highlight of the LDBBR arrangement. Talking about plot turns and certain sections allows us time for reflection and discussion on aspects of books we might skim over if we were treading through the books on our own. We have learned how to pace our reading so our progress matches up nicely, and it’s an easy, comfortable way to read. No rushing here; just a slow burn that sometimes accelerates if the book is just too enjoyable! One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that if my fiancé is not incredibly into a book we’ve chosen, I find myself a bit burned out on it too. This leads to a feeling of emotional connectedness that is hard to explain, but falls along the lines of “If he’s not digging it, I might not dig it, and life’s too short to read bad books!”
On the other hand, we’ve also experienced that moment where I’ve not been feeling a book too strongly but he’s absolutely devoured it. (This happened last year with “Lullaby” by Chuck Palahniuk). Although we both finished the book about the same time, I found that it wasn’t my cup of tea and he found that he enjoyed it quite a bit. Have you noticed how compromise, necessary in any healthy relationship, has also made its sly way into the LDBBR?
Aside from the immersion of books and the person I love, the LDBBR has led to a deeper understanding of each other’s personal preferences, literature-related and otherwise. Just the other day he expressed shock at my reaction to a scene in “World War Z” and I’ve pointed out that we both enjoy certain books a little more than we probably should (Chuck Palahniuk, people, that’s all I have to say). We have been allowed to discover each other’s reading palates and it’s been a great experiment so far. I can’t wait to see which books he proffers for next time, or which books I’ll shoot down as quickly as they surface. (He tends to favor the zombie-genre and I’m quite the newbie). There’s room for healthy debate and discussion in this book-partnership and that’s one of the best things about it.
The thing is, we don’t have to buddy read all the time, either. If he wants to read a book I have absolutely no intention of reading (or at least not at the moment), it’s completely acceptable. If I want to read a novel that he wouldn’t touch with another person’s hands, that’s fine and we’ll work around it and choose something more agreeable for both of us. There’s such flexibility in this arrangement that it feels like reading heaven; no rules, just right. We’ll proceed with our individual books, enjoy them just the same, and offer up some interesting titles more suited to our LDBBR.
I don’t want to give the impression that this relationship is without flaws. There will be times when we just don’t feel like reading at all (shhh!) or we can’t decide on a book together. Although this is rare, it does happen. Life events and daily commitments stack up and we have to divert our attention. Perhaps we are both in a bit of reading slump, because that’s also a reality, or we can’t locate the books (physical or otherwise) we decide to read. This is a good time to remind LDBBR participants that this is just another wonderful way to spice up your reading life if you happen to be in a relationship with a long-distance (book) lover. The point is, you should be enjoying yourselves when entering this arrangement.
I’m all for committing to things that make life more fun, and keep the motivational motor running steady. We book lovers might hate to admit it, but sometimes reading can turn into a chore, and that’s when it’s time to do something different. I offer up to you and yours the Long-Distance Book Buddy Read! If you choose to embark on this journey, let me know if you notice your reading (and possibly love) lives improve!
ORIGINAL ARTICLE DATE: MAY 2015