Simpatico: not quite the same as synchronicity, although there is overlap. From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of SIMPATICO
1: agreeable, likable
2: being on the same wavelength: congenial, sympathetic

I am thinking of books that read alike (synchronicity) as well as readers who appreciate the same thing (simpatico: being on the same wavelength; sympathetic). Readers who read alike, if you will.

I was considering this concept while reading Doug Peacock’s Grizzly Years the other day. I came across a passage about living and traveling in wilderness, and how Peacock felt it was similar to being in combat: “treading lightly and staying invisible.” How he prefers to bushwhack off established trails, himself. And how he empathizes with a grizzly bear fleeing a bigger grizzly:

The same thing used to happen to me back in Southeast Asia [during the Vietnam War]: whenever the shit really hit the fan, when it looked as if we were about to be overrun and it became a matter of everyone for himself, my first impulse, or perhaps instinct, was to slide off alone into the jungle and keep going until I found vegetation thick enough to hide in, a sanctuary where I could ride out the hunt for Americans. So I thought I knew what it might feel like to be outgunned by bigger bears.

Peacock’s thinking about wilderness got me thinking, and one of the first thoughts I had was, my dad needs to read this. I thought about the books I’ve insisted he read (rather than just recommended). There was Fire Season: I remember saying, look, dad, just go out and buy a hardback copy and read it, and if you don’t love it I’ll buy it off you. (He loved it.) I repeated it with Dirt Work, which also turned out well. I think I’m going to put Grizzly Years into the same category.

Pops and I are often simpatico in our reading. Not perfectly overlapping, of course – far from it – but I often find myself thinking, he needs to read this. And judging from the emails I get with assigned reading from him, I think he reacts similarly, similarly often.

The same day that I had these thoughts about Peacock’s writing, ForeWord Reviews shared the following article via social media: “When You Love A Book Because of Who It’s From”. I found the idea intriguing: that a recommendation from someone I love or respect could actually improve that book in my eyes. (As it turns out, the article is more about romantic love – that special someone and shared reading experiences. Not so personally applicable to me; Husband is not a reader and we have a beautiful and full life anyway; but I’m happy for the article’s author and her partner.) I have not experienced this first-hand. Recommended books sometimes work, and sometimes don’t, but these successes and failures don’t correlate with how much I love the recommender. (See: that one book recommended by my Grammy who I adore, that I could not read.) I do have trouble parting with a (physical) book that was a gift from a loved one. But as far as enjoying the insides? No, I think I’m pretty clinical about that stuff. The one exception is my Shelf Awareness editor, Marilyn, who sends me books to read with varying levels of confidence and is pretty much spot-on – she’s amazing – but then, that’s her profession. It’s less… emotional, on her part and mine.

What about you? Is your reading enjoyment colored by the person who recommended the book? Do you have a reading friend, or romantic partner, who is so simpatico that you can absolutely rely on his or her recommendations?

Stay tuned for my review of Grizzly Years, and hopefully Pops’s as well.

8 Responses

  1. I think of this more with movies. A lot of my early education in movies came from my father, and reflected his tastes (lots of comedies, no westerns, lots of European films, not so many Asian).

    Even now, over 20 years after his death, I see movies that I know he’d have loved (American Hustle) and ones he would have hated (Les Miserables).

  2. Unfortunately not, partly because I read very quickly and therefore read more books in general, and spend far more time than others on finding books to read next. And there’s no romantic partner (sigh!), though I’d love the chance to figure out the role that reading would or would not play in a relationship (but that’s musing of another sort …). I have several different friends with whom I share some synchronicity overlap; for instance, the other mystery readers in my book group, or the nonfiction reader who gravitates to some of the same sorts that I do (true crime, natural disasters), but also enjoys types such as biographies that do not appeal to me at all.

    What I do have is a best friend who more than once has managed to gift me a book that is clearly meant to be mine but that I either had not yet heard of at all, or else had barely heard of and not told anyone else I was interested in. The emotional spike of opening such a present makes it all the more memorable, and remains a positive attachment to that book (which always stays on my shelves) regardless of the subsequent reading experience.

    • Kate, it sounds like you DO have this kind of connection, in a few forms and with a few different people. And your gift-giving friend sounds awesome!! I am far from having perfect overlap across all reading tastes with my father; two people can’t be just alike, right? I think it sounds like you have some good simpatico relationships.

      • Oh, the benefits to having someone else read what you’ve written and find a different meaning in it! I was focused on the differences, and you saw the similarities – so much more pleasing!

        And yes, my friend is awesome!

  3. Anthony, lol, I love it! Hey, our strengths all lie in different places, and therein is the beauty & the value.

  4. Oh, Kate, I’m so glad you feel that way!!

    Hey, no two people are alike. (Imagine how boring; and how long the lines would be.) And that’s true in our reading (or movie-watching) as well. I wouldn’t ask for total simpaticos with anyone, because then why even talk about books? (I guess you could share a library.) But yes, it sounds like you have some good connections out there.

    Thanks for helping me think this idea through.

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