A recent-ish BookRiot article, “Five Tips for Reading Aloud to Your Partner,” made me smile and then in the same breath mutter, “Amateurs.” A bit judgy, perhaps, but not unfounded. Assuming I’ve maintained my records accurately, my husband and I have read 12 books aloud together, alternating choices. Most of those books are, er, not short books (Count of Monte Cristo, I’m looking at you in particular).
The list has some good pointers; I’d like to elaborate on some of them.
First and foremost, pick something you will both enjoy. Nothing else is going to flow smoothly if this one isn’t in place. If your tastes run pretty similar to begin with, great. If not… take some time to figure out what you both might enjoy. Go to the bookstore or library and browse what looks interesting. Or browse Amazon or Goodreads or some such site. And perhaps this is self-serving, but finding a common book absolutely stumps you, ask a librarian. Trust me; the book recommendations are some of the most fun we get on the job.
Look for something with reasonably sized installments. Maybe that’s chapter breaks or section breaks or short stories–either way, make sure it has enough to read immersively in a sitting while still being easy to set down until the next time. Some of this is guess work initially. Find that sweet spot.
Something with lots of dialogue will read nice and quickly; it’s why Lonesome Dove and Michael Sullivan’s Theft of Swords were such entertaining reads in spite of their hefty page counts. Doing different voices is just fun, if you’re doing it right.
Be willing to walk away from a book if it’s just not working. I mentioned we’ve read 12 books; there were probably at least half as many that we’ve started and abandoned, ranging from only having read one chapter to bailing out 3/4 of the way through. That poetically written novel you thought would just roll off the tongue might just trip you up at every line (I really thought Bradbury’s Dandelion Summer would work, but it just felt silly aloud). That urban fantasy you thought you’d both like might just be more violent than either of you really want to read aloud. Learn and move on. There are far too many new exciting things published every day to dwell on one book that isn’t providing satisfaction, a motto I generally ascribe to all leisure reading.
Finally, be excited about what you’re reading. Share that Thing you love. Squee at the good parts. It’s OK to hand the book off if a certain part leaves you verklempt (or plow through if you want–your book, your choice). The books that resonate long after they’re closed are the books that take a bit of your soul with them–share that.
Talking about a book with someone after you’ve both read it is always fun, but being able to talk about it together as you read it… That’s magic.