If you’re like most couples, sometimes, after a long day of figuring out a complicated schedule with your kids, you simply aren’t sure what you want to talk about that isn’t about planning and stress. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most parents will agree that having a distraction from the constant worrying and planning is essential. So, what can you do together that isn’t too triggering?
The easy answer is to figure out something to binge-watch together. We’re all for that. From Ozark to The Mandalorian, to James Bond movies and whatever HBO Max, Netflix, and Disney+ have to offer, it’s a good time to be a couch potato.
Having said that, talking about a show or movie you watched together might not always be the most stimulating way to have a conversation with your significant other. And, on top of that, simply watching something together doesn’t really mean you’re always relaxing together. This is why 2021 is the year to start a book club with your spouse.
Here’s how you do it. Buy two copies of a book you’re both interested in reading together. One can be a used copy of the book. One of you can buy an ebook, and the other one can be a physical book. However you want to do it. Don’t just buy one book. Really, get two. This way, each of you can have your own personalized experience of reading the book, and it can add to the fun of actually reading the book together.
The other bonus to buying two of the same book is that, if you do it right, you can support a local business. Many of your local indie bookstores are struggling to make ends meet, and all of them will be thrilled if you bought two copies of a book instead of just one. What will you do with that second book after you’re both done with the book club? Well, you can always donate it, or you know, loan it to a friend. (Personally, I hoard all books, even when I have two copies of something.) After hearing that Werner Herzog loves a strange non-fiction book called The Peregrine, I rang-up my favorite local bookstore, The Green Hand, and asked them if they had two copies. They did! And even if bookstores don’t have two copies of what you’re looking for, they can always order it. This isn’t to say that you can’t order from Amazon or Bookshop.org, it’s just that if you want bookstores to be around past 2021, you gotta buy from actual stores.
Selecting a book doesn’t’ have to be hard either. Pick an old classic you’ve both somehow never read. Pick something brand new. Read the new Obama memoir. Whatever. The point of a book club is to both read something you’ve never read before and see how you like it. It’s kind of like going to the movies. You don’t know you’re going to what you’re about to read, but that’s not the point. The point is to share something together at a different kind of pace. The number one problem of the pandemic and the stress our media consumption is the speed at which information is delivered. Reading lets you slow down, and be inside your mind palace in a different way than watching a show. And, all the while, when you’re reading, you can be thinking about what you’re going to talk about with your spouse or partner. Are they going to like this particular character? Should you underline this sentence to see what they think?
You don’t have to finish the books you choose in this book club. It’s just you and your spouse. It’s not a giant book club meeting on Zoom or whatever. You can both decide if you’re going to finish the book, or not. But, once you finish, or collectively but the book down, you should move on to the next one.
I’ve had an informal book club with my wife since we first met. She bought me my own copy of the novel The Red and the Black when we first started dating and I’ll never forget it. This year, when she suggested we formalize the book club, I thought it was the best idea we’d collectively had since deciding to have a kid. Reading together means we can each slip in a few pages of the book at our own pace. The goal, of course, is to get in some leisure reading time. But, we’re also doing something else, even when we’re apart.
As we turn the pages, we’re connecting.