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Literary sharing germinates online
A new routine for readers: Look up from the book in your face, and post about it on Facebook.

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Date published: 8/17/2010


At 4 in the morning each Wednesday, a simple question pops up on Facebook feeds throughout the Fredericksburg area.

What are you reading?

Central Rappahannock Regional Library has more than 1,450 Facebook fans, and their eager participation in the every-Wednesday forum may give hope to people who fear that social media are killing people's ability to read more than two sentences at a time.

Sure, library patrons spend time on Facebook--but only when they don't have their faces in actual books.

And while solitary book-reading has always been one of humankind's most introverted pursuits, telling friends and strangers about those books appeals to the extrovert in us.

On a recent summer morning, responses to "what are you reading Wednesday" started with a trickle.

At 4:18 a.m.: "The Remaking of American Justice," by Eric Lichtblau.

5:15 a.m.: "A Lion Among Men" by Gregory Maguire.

6:34 a.m. Just finished up Tess Gerritson's newest, "Ice Cold."

And then, between about 7 and 10 a.m., came 18 more titles by 18 more authors. By the end of the day another 13 responses had been posted.

The feature is one of CRRL's most popular contributions to Facebook, said Samantha Thomason, one of the library's Web developers.

Since the "what are you reading" feature started last January, it's gotten about 30 responses per week, she said.

It's easy.

Just hit "comment" and type in a title and author. Add a word or two about the book if you like, but that part is optional.

And it's fast.

"People don't have a lot of time," Thomason said. "It's kind of casual. It's quick. And people are not embarrassed."

That is, they're just as likely to acknowledge reading Stieg Larsson's wildly popular "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" or Scott Turow's "Innocent" as they are to mention John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" or Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations."

"It seems that there's a pretty good variety, which speaks to our patron range," Thomason said.

Fredericksburg resident John Sovitsky is a regular contributor of titles to the library's Wednesday Facebook feature. Recently he's mentioned Victor Wooten's "The Music Lesson," Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow."

Sovitsky reads other people's contributions to the list in part because he's always looking for a good recommendation, and also to see if anyone else is reading works by authors he likes.

"There's that little connectedness you feel when you're reading something someone else has read," Sovitsky said.

But the real thrill is in recommending a great book to the universe.

"I often find myself wanting to share what I'm reading as a public service," he said with a chuckle.

"There's nothing like turning someone on to a good book. It's rewarding."

Laura Moyer: 540/374-5417
Email: lmoyer@freelancestar.com