The intricacies of the Chinese culture were enhanced when reading Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club at the same time as The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Masterpieces were examined when The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro was mixed with Dan Brown’s Inferno. Time-travel to the nineteen-fifties was facilitated when John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany met Stephen King’s 11-22-63. Often I have two or three books going at one time. A paperback novel will be on my bed stand, and a non-fiction title in the family room. My cell phone has audible titles lined up so I have incentive to clean or exercise, and it holds my Kindle selections for long waits at doctors offices, groceries stores, or breaks at work. These books are like friends, ready to hang out with me at any time. They are like my dogs, waiting eagerly for me to return.
Switching between myriad books is like hanging with a friend who was designed for a specific mood and moment. It puzzles me when people ask, how do you keep them straight?
- That is like asking a Mother with ten children, how she keeps their names straight. She doesn’t. When she calls for her son Paul, chances are it comes out more like, “Joh-Tre-Paul”. But this good mother knows what makes each child delightful, and loves the nuances they bring to her life.
- It is like asking how I can have more than one friend over to the house at one time. When I do, the conversations ebb and flow from topic to topic, but when the door closes behind the last visitor, I remember that it was Julie’s mom who had died after a long illness; it was Tom who mentioned how difficult caring for her aging parent has been; Michele made us all laugh with a tale of her aging father’s wit. Their stories are related, but uniquely their own.
The real reason I will continue to read books interchangeably is what I call “Reading Synchronicity”, which is when one book complements another. In the examples above, The Good Earth and Joy Luck Club each bubbled to the top of my book pile at the same time. Owen Meany rose to the top of my list at the same time a book club member encouraged me to read 11-23-62. As for the Art Forger – Inferno connection, one was to prepare for a conference; the other was a friend’s recommendation.
This synchronicity is abundant in the movies that get released in summertime and the television shows that spawn each Autumn. I can mark that up to cultural interests and top trends. But when I pick up a classic, or a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years, and then download a friend-recommended book and, wallah, they weave their words together creating soul-enriching synergy, I am for a grateful for the experience.
If you too read several books at a time, has this ever happened to you? If so, then you know of what I am speaking. If not, you might want to check out this synchronicity. Here are a few book combinations that visited my home together. Each book is entertaining on its own, but when I read them simultaneously they each enhanced the others story.
- Intriguing last wills are the subject of John Grisham’s Sycamore Row and The Longest Ride Nicholas Sparks
- If you think you know about segregation and the African-American women’s experience, try reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
- Experience India from different vantage points by combining Life of Pi by Yann Martel and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. In my opinion, the book, Life of Pi, is so much better than the movie.
- Coming of age in a New Hampshire Prep school is the topic of Black Ice by Lorene Cary, and John Knowles’ classic, A Separate Peace.
Even better than reading my suggested book combinations, go to the library and ask for their high school summer reading list and select a book. Then ask a friend for a recommendation. It will probably lead to your own Reading Synchronicity.