Monday, May 14, 2012

The Couple That Reads Together

While on vacation in Ireland, my husband started reading The Hunger Games on his Kindle. He was about halfway through it when I finished the book I was reading (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and got bored and started reading over his shoulder. I didn't protest if he took an especially long time on a page or if he moved on before I was finished (one of us--I suspect him and he probably suspects me--has a very inconsistent reading speed). I'd come in on the middle of things and had at least the basic information from the movie so I knew the basics. I didn't ask him to wait for me when I had to go to the bathroom. In a few hours, we'd finished the first book--we'd finished it together.

This was something of a revelation. It was like watching TV together, in its way--if one of us laughed, the other could laugh too without needing an explanation. If I cried (which I did), Ian knew why. And though the book is very simply written and moves quickly, our brains got more of a workout than they would have watching Food Network UK. The next morning I read the first part of the book while Ian showered and shaved so that I could be caught up when we started Catching Fire that evening.

But I hadn't seen the movie of Catching Fire because, well, it hasn't been released. For all I know, it hasn't even been filmed. And while some of the information from the beginning of the second book is in the first movie, the general plot required a little more attention, so if Ian switched pages too early, I would squawk. Then I became the pagemaster, but with no real improvement. It was tough not to forget that someone else was reading this, too, and to have to wait to turn a page when I was eager to see what happened on the next. We developed several signals for the non-page-turner to give when finished, but either we would forget about them or else mistake normal body language for said signal (Ian nods a lot when reading, and for a while he nodded to indicate he'd finished a page, and quite a few times I confused the two types of nods). We only read for about an hour before stopping, stretching the first half of the book over several days. By the time we were in the airport on our way home, we started switching off, moving slowly on to Mockingjay, which Ian didn't finish until we'd been home several days.

There aren't a lot of books that both Ian and I want to read, so we don't often talk about books. Once, I convinced him to read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I loved being able to chat with him about that, but mostly our tastes only intersect on young adult fantasy series: two so far. It's a little difficult because I love to talk about books and we haven't read many of the same ones; even our high schools had largely different curricula. We've both read all of the Harry Potter books, and it was fun as the last few books came out to be able to talk about them together. In the case of book seven, Ian couldn't make the time to read it before we headed to his family's house for the Fourth of July, so I braved my tendency toward carsickness and used the nine-hour drive to read it to him. It's one of my favorite memories.

When I read The Deathly Hallows to Ian, I had read it before. When we read The Hunger Games, I knew the plot from the movie and was reading to fill in a few gaps. But as soon as I started into new territory, I became impatient and almost territorial whenever the technicality of page-turning pulled me out of the book's world. When Ian began to tire of reading, I took that opportunity to finish on my own. As much as I want to share books with my husband, I don't think this whole reading together thing works. But it was an interesting experiment.

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