I read Harry Potter last year.
Twenty years too late, someone commented when I proudly updated my facebook status after finishing the first book. Despite the delay something magical happened after I read the book and then the entire series. Suddenly many more jokes, references and Internet memes started making sense. Suddenly there were new people with whom I had an assured topic of conversation. While I did not quite become a Potterhead, definitely not to the extent of actually navigating through Pottermore (a horrible UX according to the product manager in me, but probably intentional so that only the most devoted get access to the magical treasures hidden there) for all related content, I was now a part of the big family of Harry Potter readers and fans. I was an insider. I could now grin mischievously as I muttered Harry’s signature “Expelliarmus”, or “Petrificus Totalus”, or even the evil “Avada Kedavra”.
Harry Potter enriched my social life. Reading popular books almost always does that. Even if you didn’t like them. I found Life of Pi by Yann Martel to be a ridiculous book. But since it is so popular, even in my dislike, I found companions. More of them online than offline, but I did.
Reading classics has a similar effect, though sometimes in smaller measure. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens are sure to give you several evening-coffees’ worth of conversations with people. Even a Doctor Zhivago works pretty well for the online world.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn became a social book in India for the simple reason that the movie was released here and was widely talked about too. Besides, the movie was quite faithful to the book.. So, it was possible to discuss it with movie-goers even though they hadn’t read the book and I hadn’t watched the movie. Not many books can really work that way. Harry Potter movies just didn’t have the details the books did. It wouldn’t be possible for only the book-readers and only the movie-watchers to come together for it. But Gone Girl produced good harmony between the two groups!
These are the social books. I’ll be talking about Lonely Books in my next post. Which social books do you really love or hate and why?