Friendship and Fiction

I would like to do an oral history interview which explores the relationship between people’s life events, and the fiction they read. The idea began when talking with a group of my friends, where all of us are avid readers, and often enjoy reading the same books, or at least the same sort of books. Discussing books has now become one of the main things we connect about, and in discussing this, we also brought up the idea of not only having friends through books and reading, but books being sort of friends as well.

Before this is dismissed as madness, I think there might be some basis for this which I would like to investigate further. I would like to find out if people remember the books they were reading at various life events, both positive and negative, and why they decided to read them, what they remember of them, and what that book means to them today. Many of my friends who I discussed this idea with said that they had particular books, or a series of books, which they considered to be friends, as they are the ones they turn to in times of turbulence.

This idea also has some historic grounding. During the Second World War, Mass Observation did a file report and a study into what people were reading, asking not only readers, but librarians and book shop owners. What was revealed, was that at the outbreak of the war, there was a marked decrease in the popularity of non-fiction books as more people turned towards classic novels which they had read before, as a source of comfort and escapism. Although it is obviously highly unlikely and unfeasible to get someone now to recall what they read during the war, I would still like to interview an older person about their lifetime reading habits, and which books stand out to them as ones inspiring friendship.

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