Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Watching and Reading

Art or literature or music or movies are community possessions. They are meant to be experienced and then discussed in community and conversation. Finding those people with whom these can be discussed and experienced can be a difficult thing, especially if ones tastes are as eclectic as mine.

The other day a friend and I were sitting at Starbucks when I flagged down a man who had been seated next to us and was beginning to leave. I had seen him reading there before and so I stopped him and asked what for him would be his ‘go to’ books, books or authors he loved to read and to which he often returns. He pulled up a chair and we talked for 15 minutes or more. It was not even until the end of the conversation when I realized that I did not even know his name.

A few days later he passed my table at Starbucks to ask me about a couple more books, and we found out that after the previous conversation, I had ordered a book he had recommended and he had ordered one I had recommended. This is the way, it seems to me, art of whatever variety is meant to be appreciated.

Notes for those who must know details:

He favors mature, classic authors – George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky. He managed to get Middlemarch back onto my ‘must read’ list.

He mentioned a passing interest in the Kennedy assassination, and so I recommended to him Stephen King’s 11/22/63. He found out I was a Presbyterian pastor (we both had read and loved Gilead by Marilyn Robinson) and he recommended, and I ordered, Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris.

And, I should add, that the friend with whom I was sitting was a passing acquaintance until the day I saw him at Starbucks reading King’s On Writing. We bonded immediately.


Love and Marriage


For Those Who Are a Mess


  1. Fun post, Randy! Love these kinds of conversations – exactly how I discovered Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry…and so many other great reads. This isn’t only how art is meant to be appreciated, it is the gift of art and artists to the larger community: bringing strangers together to share ideas, commonalities, new perspectives!

    • Good point – the function of art, whether it is good or bad, is to create that community. Fascinating.

      This is, btw, the reason I try to work as often as possible, in coffee shops.

  2. Adri

    Exactly why I joined a book club. Have read things I would not otherwise have chosen to read. And certainly not all choices are “my cup of tea” but it’s good to learn others’ opinions and share thoughts.

    • Yes, as a fifty-ish married male, my only experience in joining a book club was that it was populated with middle-aged single women. I didn’t really fit in…

  3. Elsa

    I hope you enjoy Middlemarch! Along with Anna Karenina, it’s one of my favorite re-reads because it yields something new every time.

  4. Jeb

    Man, that friend of yours reading “On Writing” has got some really good taste in books. 😉

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