Discussion re: this week’s newsletter, on a favorite reading practice: two-person book clubs!
To summarize: @jinjin and I have a tradition going of reading big, long, classic books together! Not quite every year, but we have gotten through several wonderful doorstops:
- Moby Dick: incredible, lives up to the hype; can be slow going, but gripping throughout, from majestic prose to whaling minutiae; ignore the haters who complain about the detailed digressions and meandering meditations, those parts are great too
- Don Quixote: perhaps the OG of novels, and surprisingly hilarious; an almost unending series of vignettes; stories inside of stories, epic hijinks and more
- The Power Broker: an amazing biography; a sweeping history the ramifications of which unfurl across decades; yeah it’s long but have you seen Caro’s other mega-project?!
- Infinite Jest: wild and dense and imaginative; this one took a loooong time to get into, like a month to read the first hundred pages and a week to read the final third; it’s virtuosic and full of footnotes and once you get into it ultimately pretty great
How it works:
- Pick a book together, ideally one that’s long, that you expect will be fun yet challenging
- Start at the same time; try to keep roughly the same pace
- Talk about it as you go; push each other to finish
Why it works:
- Ritualizes your commitment; gets you more invested
- More fun to read something challenging when you have someone to talk to!
- But also more casual than a formal book club; easy to take your time, adjust pacing etc.
- It can be nice to read something slowly; this kind of book becomes a background part of your life that may filter how you see the world for a while, in interesting ways
So…what should we read this year? A few ideas:
- I want to finally read some Jane Austen, maybe Pride and Prejudice
- John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World has been on my shelf for quite a while!
- Likewise, my Library of America edition of James Baldwin’s collected nonfiction
- The Gormenghast Novels seem great; I think a solid trilogy or longer series could work well!
- Middlemarch, perhaps?
Have you done anything like this? Have suggestions that would be great picks for a two-person book club? Would love to hear any!
See also these related discussions: