Why You Should Read a Book With a Stranger

I read a book over the phone with a stranger this week and it was shockingly good. Now I have some experience of reading aloud as my wife and I read to each other every night . But you’ll quickly see it if you try Audrey , a service that matches pairs of readers and gives them book chapters specially formatted to be read over the phone for 10 minutes at a time.

Audrey is a scrappy DIY project right now. First, you answer a questionnaire about yourself and your reading preferences. Audrey creator Rob Paul introduces you to your co-reader via email and gives you formatted PDFs of your 10 minute readings. You and your second reader will agree to call each other and read.

Paul, a high school psychology teacher, likens Audrey to “peer learning” in a classroom where two students study and teach together. He hopes Audrey will help people communicate outside of their normal social circle. Gadget reports on some of her best matches , such as an elderly man and an 8-year-old reading Roald Dahl’s Boy : Tales from Childhood .

Paul is currently developing an application and hopes to “find a way to make it self-contained.” But for now, it’s free, no ads, and by sheer luck. And I recommend.

By email, Paul compared me to Kristen, a reading partner. Although I strongly hinted that I wanted to read a science fiction book, Paul passed on to us a memoir about a nurse: “The Language of Kindness ” by Christy Watson. I would never pick up this book or even read its cover. Kristen was also not particularly happy with this book. But each of us read the five-minute passage, and we agreed that it was well written and moving, and we were ready to read more.

The system is quite flexible. I read my passage from my computer, but you can use a headset to read directly from your phone. Our phone connection made our voices more rare and probably erased some subtleties, but there was still a lot to learn beyond the words we read. We still experienced two main benefits of reading aloud together: sharing text in real time and being able to hear them with voice or reaction as someone else interprets the text.

The process seemed surprisingly natural, and small talk was easy, drawing on Audrey’s biographies of each other. We discussed our own reading habits (she used to read aloud with her partner); Kristen suggested that I try Neil Gaiman’s storybooks. We have scheduled another reading session next week.

Audrey can face many awkward situations. What if you don’t like your reading partner? What if some of you don’t like the book? Well, you’ll figure it out. This is nothing compared to the social anxiety of a dating app, but Audrey can be just as useful for social practice as it is for reading practice. In less than half an hour a week, you’ll read a new book and make a new friend.

Audrey | through the gadget


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