books with friends

In the last few years I’ve started to keep track of what I’ve read. I don’t do anything fancy: I have a google doc and I write down the author and title of each book I’m reading and some quick notes on it, keeping track of the months as they go by. I do it partly because I was jealous of other friends’ lists and curious to know what I really read—not what I remembered reading, the low and high points, but what I’d really spent my time reading. I also do it so that when someone asks me for a recommendation, I have notes on what I liked and disliked and said meh to. (My 2015 book list is here, cryptic notes and all.)

What I had not appreciated until recently, however, is that my list helps me remember my friends as well. When I look back at the books I’ve read, I see not only what I thought, but who suggested them to me. A twitter conversation between my friends S and E led me to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen books, which I enjoyed and then got my son to read, which gave us something to share. S also recommended a handful of other books to me, some of which I thoroughly enjoyed (Brat Farrar!), some I did not. Because K was talking about Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy I read those (and didn’t love them) and because she was talking about Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road I read that (although I was disappointed at how it fell apart) and even though those aren’t books I plan on returning to or spending time thinking about, I like that they connect me to K.

Throughout my list I see my friends. Not only their recommendations, but what they’re excited about and because of that, I see bits of their lives. Many of my friends, and I think just about all the ones on this year’s list, live far from me. I was lucky to see S in person this year, for the first time since 2012, I think. I saw K last spring, but I haven’t seen ET in person in a few years (both her recommendations are spot-on, and we both love Harry Bosch, even though I didn’t discover him through her). I’ve never even met E in the flesh, even though sometimes we exchange books.

Because I can’t meet up with them for coffee, we meet up with each other on twitter, and facebook, and slack. And we meet up in books.

2015 was a rotten year. It was rotten in so many ways and so many places, including for my family. I see that when I look back at my list. There’s a quiet lull when I was so overwhelmed with dealing with my spouse’s accident that I wasn’t reading as much or making any notes about it. But I read some great books. Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman trilogy is an absorbing and surprisingly believable account of one man trying to be good (and trying to understand what it means to be good) in the last months before the world ends. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Tana French’s Broken Harbour are very different from each other but both brought me deep into the incremental choices that mark lives and both left me bereft when they ended, not ready to leave their worlds.

2015 was rotten, and I am grateful for my friends and the books that connected us. Here’s to a 2016 full of friends, reading, and above all, peace and justice.

2 thoughts on “books with friends

  1. Sarah, Thanks for sharing all your reading with your blog followers. I love how you keep track of the friends who recommend books.
    By the way, it’s great that you read a wide variety, YA, children’s mysteries, and so much more. I’d love to share some titles with you. Your personal reading is so very different from your professional posts.

    I hope 2016 is a better year for you and your family.

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