Reading is generally considered a pretty solitary thing. Come to think of it, that's actually kind of funny, considering the early years of our lives are spent reading with our parents and then our teachers and classmates, and letting your best friend copy your book report in 5th grade (...sorry Mr. Kaiser).
Of course, after we’ve mastered the ABCs and graduated from "required reading” lists, we tend to retreat into the isolation of our living room couches and take on tomes in complete solitude. This is all well and good, but there are some books that are just so much better when you read them with friends. You know, books that make you want to pick up the phone and tell your best friend all about it, or books that make you laugh out loud and then feel really awkward about it when you realize you’re in the middle of a crowd of strangers.
I’m not going to suggest you start a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book club with your buddies (you probably already did that anyway, amirite?), but there are plenty of other books that are only improved by reading them with your besties (or at least a couple of semi-close acquaintances) at the ready to laugh, discuss, reminisce, or just plain enjoy with you.
Mosquito by Gayle Jones
It’s a jazzy novel guided by a high-strung narrator with a black Southwestern dialect and a string of her women friends. Between the narrator’s dialect that makes you want to read the thing out loud and the anecdotes that make you want to call up a friend and talk about it, you might as well just read it with friends!
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
There’s so much going on in this novel! It’s a bit of a whirlwind, and it’s made so much better when you get to compare your takeaways with your friends and see the differences.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
All of Mindy’s quirky advice and anecdotes will make you want to hang with your bestie and hear all her quirky advice and anecdotes, so you might as well just read it together.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This one is particularly brilliant if you grew up in the '80s. There are so many '80s references your head will be swimming with nostalgia halfway through the book. If you read it with friends, you’ll be practically living on memory lane.
for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is not enuf by Ntozake Shange
Originally meant to be performed on stage, and with the comparing and contrasting of the experiences of the different women in the play-poem, for colored girls is an experience that begs to be shared.
Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
Reading Borges is a trip. He plays with ideas like a kid in a ball pit. And when you’re reading him, your brain is likely to explode with ideas as well. When you read his stories with a friend, you’ll end up staying up until the wee hours having a blast just playing and marveling at all sorts of ideas and what-ifs.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Mostly you’ll want a friend in on this one just to keep you from giving up. It’s a weird, tough, door-stopper of a book, and even the most readerly of readers probably needs a little motivation from a friend. It’s like running a marathon; you’re less likely to crap out at page 800 if you’ve got a reading buddy to urge you through the mountain of footnotes and incomprehensibility.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
You know that friend you had in middle school whom you’ve somehow managed to stay friends with all these years? Read this one with her. You’ll have a blast (and maybe a couple of good cries or at least meaningful silences) as you recognize your former selves in the young versions of Yolanda and her sisters.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
I’m completely serious! The old school English and silliness is just so much better when read aloud with a friend (and maybe a little help of wine). It’s so fun! (yeah, I’ve done it). Plus, you’ll totally pick up on some new hilarious insults to use on unwitting (and soon-to-be confused) foes. Go on, have a little fun. Be be warned, it’s not for everybody. As the author himself says, “You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath nought to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you.”
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The only thing more fun than escaping into a ridiculous space adventure is doing it with friends. Hitchhiker’s Guide is also a blast to read all by yourself, but don’t blame me when you start cackling hysterically out loud in the middle of the train and then looking around for someone to share the hilarity with. When you read it with friends, you’ll all soon be sharing little witticisms and inside jokes about the book that your other friends will probably find obnoxious. So, you might want to let them in on the group read, too.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Obviously, this one is best read when actually in Paris with friends. Hemingway gives the addresses to cafés and bars and bookstores and wanders the city with friends and friendlier friends eating and drinking and living the life. It’d be hard to read this and not want to do the same, even if you’re not in Paris.
Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Nobody’s perfect. In fact, it’s probably safe to say we’re all a little messed up, crazy, weird, and harboring slightly worrisome relationships with wine. But with the best of friends, you don’t have to pretend you’ve got it all together. You get to be that messier version of yourself. Handler’s book is like a big 300-page permission slip to do just that. So why not do it with friends? Besides, you could probably play a drinking game where you drink every time Handler does (or would if you weren’t reading one of her essays about when she was in 3rd grade) and end up having a sloshing good time.
Image: Plashing Vole/Flickr