Talking about reading

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I went to camp to staff a senior high/college age retreat weekend. This is something I’ve been doing for many years. At camp on this weekend, campers and staff are encouraged to sit with a variety of people. In attempting this, I ended up having a variety of conversations about books over meals. I also talked about books at other times on the weekend. I knew many of the campers at the weekend because they’d participated in the camp’s leader-in-training program, which I direct. From our interactions before last weekend, most of the campers knew I like to read. So we talked books. (When I write this blog, former LITs are often the audience I have in mind.) Here are a few snippets of the conversations about books that stick in my mind.

One day at lunch, we discussed recent non-required reading. The Physics Student and I talked about 1984, which we’d both read for the first time this year. The Physics Student’s cousin told us not to spoil the book for her, so we talked in non-specific terms about how we didn’t like the ending. The Physic Student’s sister was appalled that I had not read 1984  before this year. The Chess Master recommended a series about a thief and Attolia, though he couldn’t remember the author. He read the third book in the series first and recommended I try the same thing. I found the first two books at a used bookshop today, so I’ll be starting with number one, The Thief.

The Physics Student’s sister and I talked about books while many people carved pumpkins. She is working through one of those top 100 books you should read lists, and talked about her experience reading Catch-22. We then discussed book lists and how we don’t like everything on those top-100 lists. She doesn’t like Pride and Prejudice; I’ve read P&P 7 times at least. I flee from Wuthering Heights; she’s read it multiple times. I’m almost convinced to try WH but not quite. And Catch-22 is on my list but sort of in the background at the moment.


At the turkey dinner, required reading was the topic on the table. I was sitting with high-schoolers and they were reading Life of Pi and The White Tiger. I was impressed by the fact that English teachers seem to be updating reading lists regularly, and with the Tiger theme in the reading at two different schools. I’ve read Life of Pi but not White Tiger. I may have to reconsider WT.

Conversations change what I decide to read. Does talking about books change what you decide to read?

(The book I kept recommending last weekend was a recent read: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.)



Filed under fiction

3 responses to “Talking about reading

  1. Thalia

    That’s the way most of the books I read come my way. I don’t spend as much time browsing the library shelves now as I did when I was a kid, so it’s way more viable to find things through conversation. Working at a bookstore especially brings all sorts of suggestions my way. A lot of them I wouldn’t consider if I saw them on a shelf, but having a conversation with some one who recommends it somehow makes me reconsider.
    But this does make me miss sitting around those green clothed tables, eating chicken burgers, maple chocolate mania, Joyce’s chicken (etc.) and talking with wonderful people!

  2. Christine

    If you do read Wuthering Heights, pay close attention to the themes of reading and literacy, and how they inform the various characters of those who read, or don’t.

    The first time I read WH, I thought it was garbage, The second time I thought it was interesting. The third time I read it with a paper on the above in mind & found it fascinating. (I still have the paper if you are interested in that as a way to frame your own encounter with the text.)

  3. Sue L.

    I absolutely LOVED Cutting for Stone…. And I miss Beacon — haven’t been in 20+ years…

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