Books Editor Rachel Campbell describes her attempt to make reading a shared hobby in her relationship.
To say my boyfriend isn’t a reader would be an understatement. Having studied accounting at uni, he left books at Higher English and never looked back. As I begin my fourth year of studying English Literature, reading has become an enormous part of my life, particularly as I consider the world of books as a career. They say opposites attract, but when reading brings me so much joy, I often wish I could share that with my partner. As she so often does, Sally Rooney came through just when I needed her, and as my boyfriend loved the BBC adaptation of Normal People, I seized my chance to make him consider giving her books a go.
"As my boyfriend loved the BBC adaptation of Normal People, I seized my chance to make him consider giving her books a go..."
We sat down and had a conversation about what I thought dedicating time each week to read books together could bring to our relationship. For one thing, the pandemic has ensured we’ve had far more screen time than healthy, so a shared hobby that doesn’t involve square eyes seemed appealing. Knowing I had lots of reading to get through this year, it would also be helpful to me to have allocated time to be both productive whilst also spending time together. On another note, one of my favourite things about reading (and perhaps any kind of art) is the moment where the writer puts into words exactly how you’ve been feeling. Both of us having more opportunities to feel those “This! This is exactly it!” moments while being with one another seemed like it could only help our communication too. Having laid out my argument, I was happy to see my boyfriend agreed more enthusiastically than I’d anticipated, and whilst he didn’t opt for Rooney’s novels straightaway, we did begin reading together.
Whilst I had to stick to my assigned reading for the time being, it was fun to be able to suggest books I thought he’d enjoy. He liked the sound of a book that was on my course last year, Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry, with a mix of postmodern humour, anarchy and accountancy that seemed to fit into his interests. Though maybe not the simplest of books, I recommended it because it was short, with lots of snappy chapters and drawings of double-entry bookkeeping. The titular character applies this accounting method to his life, balancing how he was wronged with how he can, increasingly violently, wrong the world. It’s a fun book, though thinking about it now, I’m not sure how a story about a man who plans to blow up parliament will help us communicate more effectively in our relationship.
"Though thinking about it now, I’m not sure how a story about a man who plans to blow up parliament will help us communicate more effectively in our relationship..."
Regardless, our endeavours into this new shared hobby didn’t end there. On a trip to Edinburgh we visited some bookshops and had fun picking out books he might enjoy, as well as adding to my ever-growing pile of books that I promise I’ll get round to one day. Whilst I love a solo bookshop trip and find it very relaxing, it was also very nice to share that with my partner, and show him a part of my world which he previously felt wasn’t for him. Reading books we’d just picked out together while sitting in Princes Street Gardens was everything I’d hoped it would be when jealously watching everyone else’s literary dates on TikTok.
In reality, the majority of the time we’ve attempted to read together he has fallen asleep; once at 8pm, which I tried not to take too personally. However, I do think it’s sweet he’s attempting to understand something I love, and it has given us different things to do together other than binging yet another Netflix original. If you’re looking for a new shared hobby, why not try reading together? Whilst it’s usually a solo endeavour, I think it’s got the potential to bring you closer.
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