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The Deep Dive

Is Reading Your Love Language?

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S. Zainab Williams

Executive Director, Content

S. Zainab would like to think she bleeds ink but the very idea makes her feel faint. She writes fantasy and horror, and is currently clutching a manuscript while groping in the dark. Find her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.

Why do we feel compelled to share our books? What is it about the act of reading that inspires the growth of bookish communities? We find each other through book clubs, Bookstagram, BookTok, fandoms, Little Free Libraries, Friends of the Library, read-alongs, and more. We gift books, we want to know what family and friends thought about the books we recommended, we check out a potential partner’s bookshelves, we seek out space to share our bookish interests.

For much of my life, I thought introverts like me gravitated toward the world of books because reading is a solitary practice, forgetting that my childhood introduction to reading was communal and missing that so much of my adulthood experience of reading was increasingly about finding community and common ground, about sharing and bonding over books. 

I’m putting it out there that books are a love language, that reading builds community and deepens our bonds with one another, and I’m viewing this perspective from a positive lens – pardon me as I indulge in some good feelings about bookish community backed by personal anecdotes, other experiences, data, and science.

Love Language Who?

First things first: what even is a love language? Author, radio talk show host, and Doctor of Philosophy Gary Chapman, Ph.D. is responsible for developing the five love languages in his book, aptly titled, The Five Love Languages. The first time I came across the concept of love languages, it came out of the blue in casual conversation, and then it was inescapable, all over social media and online content. Memes about love languages haven’t supplanted memes about enneagrams in my circles, but the languages have become another tool in the toolbox for couples, friend groups, and strangers talking to strangers on the internet. To reference your love language is to say, “This is me. This is how I operate. Use this as a guide to engage with me.”

The purpose of Chapman’s book, as stated in the publisher’s synopsis, is more specific to romantic relationships. The book is meant to “help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner.” I did not know who Gary Chapman was before writing this piece. I have never read The Five Love Languages. You don’t have to read the book to engage with the subject matter when it comes up in the real world (because people will almost always follow up the proclamation of their love language with something of an explainer) or to get the general concept – that the ways in which people show and receive love fall into five categories:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

There’s room to argue that various aspects of the reading experience fall under these categories, but I’m not here to argue that Chapman forgot an essential language. I’m here to delight in and explore the concept of reading as its own love language. But if you are interested in learning more about the canon, there’s the book and a whole site dedicated to the languages

Moreover, as with much of the internet, when I talk about reading as a love language, I’m not exclusively talking about how people give and receive love in romantic relationships, but how we do so across many types of relationships, both established and prospective. Because sometimes we’re showing love to a community we don’t physically interact with or see.

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