On January 1, 2018, my friend Chad and I decided to start a Facebook reading group. It wasn’t supposed to be a “book club” in which we all read the same book and discussed it (or, more to the point of most book clubs, where some of us read the same book and we all got together over wine and sort of discussed it). No, this was just a “share what you’re reading and what you think about it” kind of group. Or an “I need a book to listen to right now—what should I get?” kind of group. All kinds of readers and all kinds of books were welcome. Judgment about the books, but never about each other. We invited Facebook friends who were interested and the group expanded from there. We now have over 200 members in the private group.
In the late spring of 2020, when we were all going stir crazy from quarantine and either reading way too much (is that possible?) or bemoaning the fact that we couldn’t seem to concentrate on ANYTHING, I came across one of those “30 Days of Reading” challenges. You know, Day One: A Book That Makes You Happy, Day Two: A Book That Makes You Think, Day Three: A Book You Wish You Wrote and so on. I posted a prompt each day, and let members of the group go at it.
And here, dear readers, is a Google Doc compiling all of the responses arranged by day. [Shout out to daughter Kalena who helped me with the compiling, alphabetizing, looking up authors, etc.!]
It’s a fun list to peruse. Some titles and authors pop up repeatedly. Other choices provide a glimpse into the life of the responder. I could do deep dive into the list—a statistical look at representation or a thematic analysis of reading patterns. I won’t do that, though. It would take the fun out of perusing. It would reify the world of books and reading in a way that just feels wrong. And it would be way too much work.
I will, however, note a few things that came to me as I compiled and reviewed the list.
- The books we read in childhood or as teens shape us for the rest of our lives. This is not a ground-breaking observation, I know, but I was struck both by the volume of responses to a prompt like Day Fifteen: A Book You Read as a Child and to the number of reads from early life that popped up in all the other prompts. Whether it’s Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter or The Secret of the Old Clock or Elephant and Piggie, those early reading experiences stick with us.
- Our reading responds to the moment. For all the prompts dealing with books that made you think, or think differently, or challenged you, the responses veered heavily towards books about race. Between the World and Me, White Fragility, The Nickel Boys, Stamped From the Beginning, Just Mercy. All of these books were mentioned many times, and for good reason. Given the nature of pre-existing social networks, members of this group are predominantly white and middle or upper-middle class. I’m glad we are reading and learning. I hope we keep doing so. I wish we hadn’t been so ignorant before.
- Our go-to for being scared is Stephen King. Our go-to for comfort is Anne Lamott. No surprise on either count.
And I’ll leave my observations at that. I encourage you to check out the list. Think of your own responses to the prompts. Shake your head at the strange books that embed themselves in our psyches. Use it for inspiration the next time you’re looking for your next book.
Just keep reading.