The idea of joining a book group can make some readers cringe—the distractions of food, kids, and pets, and a scant hour or two in which to discuss the themes of an entire novel or the intricacies of a nonfiction argument. For dedicated readers, “paired book reading” could be a more satisfying way to tackle a text.
In the “Best of Books” issue of Canadian environmental magazine Alternatives Journal (article not available online), two friends explain their quirky system. The retired men read separately, employing color-coded underlining: green for environmental passages, red for “vital” passages, and yellow (or black) for anything that catches the eye on first reading. Then, they get together for painstaking, detailed discussions of the text, meeting for two hours at a time.
“It can take a couple of years to go through a book,” the men admit, so paired reading is not a commitment every book-group escapee will want to make. For those willing to take the plunge, the friends advise choosing books that stimulate discussion (they enjoy authors James Lovelock, E.O. Wilson, and Thomas Berry, among others) and ditching works that are too arcane or prompt “only head-nodding agreement.”