Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Couple That Reads Together...

Youngins.  At the beach after my college graduation.  Clearly Andrew's book was more interesting.
You'd think two former English majors, one of whom is still studying English literature as a career, would have a better track record.  For pretty much our entire relationship, Andrew and I have tried on and off to read the same book together, at the same time; sort of our own little book club.  We'd talk about books we'd both always wanted to read, or a book that one of us had loved and wanted to share with the other, and make plans to chat about them on the phone, or, after we were married, at dinnertime or bedtime.

That was the idea.  Andrew valiantly devoured Emma, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, even all of Anna Karenina while I…very, very slowly made my way through those choices while reading 2 or 3 other books at the same time, meaning we didn't have many chances to talk about our shared book like we'd intended!  I get that people have different reading personalities--he's a one-book-at-a-time kind of man, while I prefer to play the field, I guess--and fully admit to dropping the ball on this.  Andrew's workload this summer while teaching full time and studying for comps exams has left him precious little time for pleasure reading, and I wish I'd taken better advantage of the time when we were both free to read more books by choice.

But, I refuse to give up.  Even when we're turning different pages, talking about what we're reading remains one of our favorite topics of conversation, and if I can salvage my dignity at all, I wanted to share a few books we did both manage to read, ones we enjoyed and that led to fruitful talks:

Fill These Hearts by Christopher West: We were both left absolutely amazed by this take on the Theology of the Body in light of the restlessness and longing every human heart feels, why that deep ache sometimes leads us to settle for less, and why embracing our longing and desires for what they are can bring us fully alive.  I wrote more about it here.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt: Neither of us had ever really read a Western-type novel before (though Andrew loves this movie), but decided to read this simply for the reason that we'd heard it was good.  It is!  Though it's the story of two brothers riding around on horses and shooting things and all that entails, the Western setting seemed secondary to their development as characters.  One brother tries, but often fails, at righteousness, while the other…well, doesn't really try.  The tragedy of it lies in the ways their consciences diverge further and further apart.  In full disclosure, we read this at all hours of the day and night after Aaron was born, so their might be some haze over our opinion, but I suspect we'd still enjoy it if we reread it in a saner state.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: I've been reading this since January and Andrew smoked me months ago…it's not taking so long because it's boring or because I don't like it; it's that, since this classic is so fat, I keep taking (maybe unnecessary) breaks to read other books as I work my way through!  Slow and steady, friends.  Seriously though, this truly is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.  Tolstoy seems to deeply know the heart, and his language and the characters' topics of conversation sometimes feel almost like spiritual reading (curiously enough, to my surprise, Anna herself is a central part of the story but hardly the main character).  We got this translation because we'd heard of its readability and closeness to Tolstoy's original words, and I promise it feels nothing like a stiff high school reading assignment; it is so human and relatable.  It hasn't stuck around for 200 years for nothing, right?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: …and here's one that Andrew's still reading!  This is the author of The Goldfinch's first novel from about 20 years ago, and in my opinion, it's much better.  We learn on the first page that a group of college students have committed a murder, and the rest of the book explains their motive and the aftermath.  Even in the hundred or so pages my husband has read so far, we've had plenty to talk about regarding the students' and their teacher's philosophies on beauty and justice and on the book's theme of how subtly and seemingly harmlessly evil can take root in a soul.  So, so compelling and tense.

Tell me, have you ever read a book together with your fiancĂ© or husband?  I love new recommendations and would love to hear any ideas you have for keeping each other on track with a shared reading project!


3 comments:

  1. We tried doing this while we dated long distance! It was a great idea in theory but it forced us to read at a slower rate and since we didn't have anything formal to follow, we wasted a lot of time trying to think of comments/questions to provoke discussion. I don't think it's a terrible idea, but it definitely wasn't as easy as we thought it would be!

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  2. I do not have a boyfriend/fiance/husband, but I have read Anna Karenina and I actually wrote a review about it on my blog. I love the idea of reading a book along with a dearest one, but I read very quickly and I'm afraid I would get impatient if I had to wait, as bad as that sounds. :PI do love the idea, though.
    (And may I say I nearly screeched with happiness when I saw your return to blogging? I've been lurking on your blog for almost two years now and this is my first comment!!)

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    1. Props to you for finishing Anna; I am determined! Off to go look for your review after this =)

      We've definitely had times where one of us is waiting for the other to catch up, but the anticipation of talking about big plot points or character developments really is fun! Thanks so much for sticking with and for commenting!

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