The secret language of books

Some days I feel like books are my own private code. (And no, I don’t mean the silly code my friends and I came up with in junior high to talk about our crushes: the “books” we were “reading.” Yes, we were that nerdy).

Rather, I feel like certain books and authors are a kind of shibboleth that signify my “kindred spirits,” or, as Anne Shirley might have called them “of the race that knows Joseph.” I’ve found on more than one occasion that I connected instantly with someone, only to find out later that we have oddly similar taste in books.

And there’s nothing like having an acquaintance rave about a book I love to make me like them better.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I won’t like you if we don’t like the same books. But if you tell me you like some of my favorite authors, that’s an easy passport into my favor.

Here are a few authors and books (some well-known, some obscure), that show up on my secret code radar–in other words, if you tell me you like these authors, you’re probably “in”:

Connie Willis (esp. To Say Nothing of the Dog)
Dorothy Sayers (or even just mention Lord Peter or Harriet Vane)
Georgette Heyer (I’d add Jane Austen, but too many people like her for that to be a reliable indicator)
Lois McMasters Bujold
Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia
Elizabeth Peters
A. S. Byatt’s Posession
George Elliot’s Middlemarch

There are others, of course, but these are some of my go-to “comfort” authors. (And yes, I have a certain weakness for British period pieces. And your point is?)

What about you? Do you feel like books establish an instant kinship between you and other people? What are some of your “code” books (or authors)?

3 thoughts on “The secret language of books

  1. Oh absolutely… there's something about knowing that someone else likes the same books as me that makes me think “Oh! You're one of the chosen people!” I don't know why. There's just something about it that you instinctively know “Well, they MUST be cool if they liked that book!”

    In Which We Start Anew


  2. I totally agree! I think my code authors might be Wallace Stegner, Barbara Kingsolver, and Anne Tyler on the grownup end and Frank Cotrell Boyce and Gary Schmidt on the kids end.

    The other side of the coin is when somebody tells me they're not really a reader. Not that it makes me think less of them, but I automatically feel like we may not have much in common. 🙂


  3. Code authors…I like it. John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Markus Zusak, Laurie Halse Anderson, Hemingway, Steinbeck…shoot, maybe I don't have any.

    When people tell me they don't read, I feel sorry for them and sometimes set out on a mission to help them find a book they like.


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