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Changing My Mind: Reading Is A Social Activity

I suppose this comes under ‘rambles’. I’ve written on this subject elsewhere before and Alice has covered it on this blog. Whilst it may not be that reading in itself is social – exceptions: reading to others, sharing an audiobook – it still kind of is.

Reading becomes social. It becomes social once we’ve finished the book. (And, to some extent when we discuss it as we read, but I’m going to stick to the ‘aftermath’ here as it lasts longer.)

Reading becomes a social activity as a result of it being solitary. Unless we wish to read in a bubble, unless we never tell a soul about our interest in books, it changes the minute we finish. The desire to understand an ambiguous ending leads us to seek the opinions of others and whether it’s in person or online, we’re moving beyond isolation. We like to discuss themes. Good books make us want to recommend them, bad books make us rant and tell others not to read them – which is still discussion. Even the questions ‘have you read much?’ or ‘what are you reading?’ asked by distant relatives who don’t actually care cause reading to be social.

If we take it to its core, reading is a dialogue, a book created by both author and the reader. It’s a passive discussion, an ‘I’ll do this part and then send it over to you’ working process. We can’t read without the author getting us off the ground and a book lies dormant without a reader’s imagination and thoughts to bring it to life.

I’ve changed my stance, replacing the opinion that reading doesn’t have to be solitary, can be social if wanted, with the opinion (fact?) that reading is a social activity full stop.

At what stage do you think reading starts being social?



February 3, 2016, 1:40 pm

I have a friend, an extrovert, who thinks reading is social from the minute she picks up a book–especially since learning I’m a book blogger, she wearies me with long plot synopses of books I will never read.
Like you, I think reading is social from the minute you finish. It’s the ideas I want to talk about, not the plot.


February 7, 2016, 9:01 pm

I completely agree! In the moment it is solitary, but afterwards it is incredibly social. I love having conversations about reading.


February 26, 2016, 3:24 pm

Jeanne: Hehe! Though that’s a good perspective to have, definitely. I like your point, about the ideas rather than the plot. The plot can be interesting to talk about but it rarely has anything like the sort of longevity the ideas do.

Alice: ‘In the moment’ – perfect summary.



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