Nancy Pearl describes “friend-maker” novels as “books that are so idiosyncratic that when you stumble across someone who has not only read but loved the book as much as you have, you know you’ve made a friend for life.” I’d be hard pressed to come up with an exhaustive list of my friend-makers, but here are the first three that come to mind.
1. Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev
I’m sure the number of high school syllabi this title appears on increases the friend-making odds, but high school is getting further away for a lot of my friends, so I consider that a testament to the book’s staying power. I’ve bonded with several fellow readers over Asher Lev, all of whom have read hundreds or thousands of books since they first encountered this one, and it’s still memorable.
2. Alan Paton’s Too Late the Phalarope
For some readers, this book just doesn’t click. But those who “get” it keep talking about it. For me it keeps popping up in online discussions, book clubs and over glasses of wine. The characters are so human, the setting so tragic, the story so well-crafted. I appreciate Paton’s other novels, but this is the one that speaks to me—and obviously I’m not alone.
3. Mischa Berlinski’s Fieldwork
It’s possible to appreciate this novel just for its unravelling mystery and exotic locale. But readers with a certain religious background seem to have a flint-like reaction to it, sparking an immediate connection to the characters. I find that a casual mention of this book to those I suspect of being on a similar journey to mine usually elicits the “I know exactly where you’re coming from” kind of response. Amazing that a “Have you read…?” can communicate so much about your own past and present.
So those are just three of my friend-maker novels. What are some of yours?