It is nearly a year since Lockdown measures were introduced, and although there is more positive news every day, isolation from friends and family is beginning to grate for me. Zoom quizzes and FaceTiming have lost their original spark and so I wanted to find a new way to interact with all the important people in my life, whilst we are unable to be together. I think Buddy Reading might just be the ticket.

I stumbled across the idea of Buddy Reads on Instagram and was instantly taken. In short, a Buddy Read is a mini-book group. Two or three of you read the same book and then discuss it with no agenda, just a new topic of discussion in a time when pushing yourself to talk to people can be hard.

Buddy Reading has boosted my morale and aided my mental health so much, as I have reconnected with people with whom I have struggled to keep a line of communication open. I have also found new ways to share my life with those I can’t see in person. I wanted to share it with others in today’s blog in the hope you might get the same benefit.

Below is a selection of books to try Buddy Reading, and some suggestions on who might be the right buddy to read with.

When The Music Stops by Joe Heap

I listened to this as an eAudiobook on Borrow Box as a buddy read with my Mom. We haven’t been able to see each other, bar a few socially distanced walks in the summer, and Buddy Reading has reinvigorated our conversations.

When the yacht her daughter’s boyfriend owns starts to flood, Ella is left to care for her grandson and keep them both safe until help comes; however, her memory isn’t what it used to be. From Glasgow to London. Ella relives seven key losses in her exhilarating life through songs and reencounters lost loves to keep her and the baby safe.

When the Music Stops is a tale of loss and ultimately love. It is full of emotion and whilst the premise becomes familiar, the stories within always carry a hidden message. Although not always considering the happiest of topics, the story overall filled me with satisfaction and warmth.

This was a great book to Buddy Read as Heap explores so many different aspects and phases of life that there is something for everyone to attach to. This helped to spark conversation with my Mom as we drew on our own experiences and ended up understanding each other more, through our connection in the book.

The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

This book was recommended to me as a Buddy Read between partners or friends, and is good if you’re looking for something to read with a person of a different gender. It is a genuine, up-lifting story and is ideal for the lull many of us are currently experiencing.

James and Danny went to the same school but lost touch, until a random encounter in their thirties. Neither has been lucky since leaving school yet the trauma and hardship they face may be just what they need to connect again. Friendship can blossom in the darkest times.

The Man I Think I Know is a story of friendship, and of finding hope when all seems lost. It draws on the power of friendship and as Zoe Ball recently referred to it, this book is ‘thought-provoking and completely charming’.

Buddy Reading this book, especially in the current situation, is ideal. The troubles both characters face give escapism from anything you might be struggling with, without belittling them. The connection with a friend can inspire a reconnection with those you read with, and the uplifting message throughout that Gayle conveys so well gives hope when the road ahead still seems so long. If you have a friend that you have lost touch with over the past year, or someone you’re missing, this book is a perfect buddy read to reconnect over.

Between The Stops by Sandi Toksvig

I have been a big fan of Sandi’s work for a long time. From QI to Bake Off, she has been a good laugh, so when I saw she had a book out I had to read it. This seemed like a great Buddy Read as it is light-hearted and fun. I think this would be great to read with anyone as there is something interesting in it for everyone and it sparks great discussions.

Sandi shares her memoir from her seat on the number twelve bus. From facts about what she can see on her journey around London, to anecdotes about her 40 years on stage, screen, and radio, the heart-warming, funny, and fascinating tales intrigue every reader to turn the page.

Between the Stops is a relaxing and easy going read that you learn from whilst laughing. It is Toksvig at her best and an all-round fun read.

This is the kind of book that everyone is pulled to different parts and this in itself sparks conversation. It could be looking further into a topic you were both drawn to, or as simple as “no, I didn’t know that either!” As with every memoi,r it is of life and love and you may be able to draw connections to your own life, giving new topics for conversation with your buddy.

My next reads are Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. I am hoping to find new ways to connect with the people I am missing through these. I hope you give these titles, or ones of your own, a go and try Buddy Reading with that friend you have lost touch with or as a new way of socialising with those we can’t see just yet!