It started three years ago when we were dating. It was Saturday and after a day of adventures, we were looking for a low-key date night. We’d already eaten, it was too cold to go for a walk and we couldn’t agree on a movie. Josh got up and went into his room and several minutes later, reemerged carrying a thick ivory book. He sat down, opened its pages and settled in.
It was a collection of C.S. Lewis stories and essays and he began reading The Great Divorce. Out loud. To me. With a Scottish accent.
At first I felt a little awkward and fidgety. This wasn’t like being read to as a kid. It was a long story; there were no pictures. Was I supposed to watch the pages? Watch him? How long is this chapter?! But it didn’t take long to settle into comfortable listening and after a few chapters I asked for a turn at the helm (minus the accent). We continued like this for a long time, switching back and forth, reading, and listening. Every so often we’d stop to talk about it, what we thought of the characters and the plot, what might be ahead.
When we’d finished the story, I was sad that it was over. I’d loved it! It was relaxing and fun and we’d had really great and meaningful conversation afterwards. A few weeks later I brought The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and he read to me while I made dinner. We sat at the table long after we’d finished our meal, passing the book back and forth, getting lost in the world of Narnia.
Reading to each other quickly became one of our favorite activities. And we started working through books more quickly, reading on road trips, on the beach, during meals, anytime we had a chance. Now that we’re married, we still make it a priority. After we put our daughter to bed, one of us might read while the other does dishes, or curled up on the couch with a blanket. If it’s been a long or stressful day, Josh will pull out a book and read to me until I fall asleep.
Recently we made a list of all the books we’ve read out loud to each other; there is nearly one for every month since that first story. We’ve read some memoirs and biographies, but mostly we love stories. We love books with interesting characters and good plots, that are fairly easy to read and to listen to, and easy enough to put down and pick back up later.
This hobby has been really great for our marriage for a few reasons. First, it’s something that requires that both of us be present, really present. Not just in the same room, but attentive to the other person. Second, it fosters fun conversation with each other. It gives us a space to talk not about work or money or child rearing or honey-do projects, but about silly things. Except those silly things often lead us into deep and meaningful conversation, about our own memories, our longings and dreams. The intimacy of reading to each other gives rise to wonderfully intimate conversations. Third, it keeps us from TV. Our TV time has decreased to almost nothing since we started reading to each other. This is really important to us because we believe reading is better for both of us, as individuals and as a couple. We aren’t zoning out side-by-side, but sharing in real recreation. We’re not really interested in getting into that new show, because we’re dying to know what happens at the end of our book. And wee save money by forgoing the cable bill and making frequent trips to the library instead. There’s still the occasional movie night, but overall, we’re just really happy reading together, discovering new worlds and broadening our own.
Want to give it a try? Here are a few that we’ve found especially fun to read together that you might start with:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
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Copyright 2015 Megan Swaim.
Photo copyright 2015 Megan Swaim. All rights reserved.