My life mission is to convert everyone I know into a reader. Reading has sprinkled my life with so much joy and magic, and I’ll be damned if my friends miss out on that experience.
But it’s not easy. People are resistant to the idea of reading. I partially blame high school English. Apologies to the English teachers, but nothing ruins the excitement of reading for me more than having to break down the meaning of each sentence to try to deduce what the author meant. As a writer, I don’t know what I’m trying to say half the time (which may be a whole other issue.) I was born with reading in my blood but I detested English class; I can’t imagine the taste it left in the mouths of people who never liked reading to begin with.
Reading should embolden, inspire, and teach. It should help us hold a magnifying glass to ourselves. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen by picking a book apart, but by experiencing conflict through bold, inspiring characters. By connecting with a person or a story we never thought we’d have anything in common with. Some even posit that reading fiction makes us better people.
I want empathetic, bookworm friends. I want to be surrounded by people who see the world through compassionate eyes. That’s why I am both drawn to readers and why I so badly want to share the magic of reading with non-believers. So over the past few years, I’ve come up with these easy, gentle ways to share the reading bug with my friends.
Join a book club together. I confess, my favorite part of reading is that it doesn’t involve other, non-imaginary people. But for my extroverted friends, or friends who just aren’t heavy readers, a book club is the perfect compromise between quiet time and social engagement. My friends and I are too spread out now to meet on a regular basis, so we recently began a feminist book club via Facebook. It gives us the chance to stay in touch and share our ideas about a common interest through books.
Read a lot. This one is easy. The more you read, the more you have to suggest. You become the source for recommendations. The more variety I fit into my reading list, the better chance I have at setting someone up with a book that’s a perfect fit for their interests. The only risk here is book vomiting all over the person asking for the recommendation. People do not like to be book-vomited at. Take care not to overwhelm.
Go on a friend date to a bookstore or library. Put a book in your friend’s hands. Let them experience the ecstasy of cracking a hardcover book open on their own. Lead them to their favorite section and point out your picks. Leave them there and let them peruse alone. Bookstore dates are wonderful because, as J.K. Rowling says, “if you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” Under the domes of Barnes & Noble or your local library, there is a book for everyone. Let them find it. Let your friends see you in your natural habitat, and just maybe they’ll catch a little bit of your book lust by proximity.
Invite them to join Goodreads. The Goodreads reading challenges have turned me into a monster, but it’s also just a fun bookish site full of giveaways, quotes, recommendations, and books galore. You can use the social platform to promote reading camaraderie with your friends, and maybe to incite just a smidgen of peer pressure. The ability to track your reading progress provides a sense of accountability, and it’s a non-obtrusive way to share your reading list.
Tag them in an atrocious amount of book memes until they cave in. Fool proof.