How To

6 Ways to Make Bookish Friends

Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

For so many reasons, bookish friends are among the very best kinds of friends there are. For the extroverts among us, books present an endless supply of conversation – from what you’ve been reading lately, to how a movie compares to the novel it was adapted from, or what your favourite local bookstore is. If you feel a little socially anxious, “what are you reading?” is an easy way to springboard into conversation. And if you love companionable silence, what better way to achieve that than by sharing a sofa or a stretch of beach, each quietly turning pages and caught up in your own worlds?

But what do you do if you don’t have any bookish friends? Maybe you’ve just moved to a new town, or maybe all your friends are getting married and moving to the suburbs, or finding parenthood too overwhelming to have time to read. Or maybe you have friends already, but you aren’t sure how to figure out which of them are into books – you know, like, really into books, the way people who read Book Riot are.

Want to make more bookish friends? We've got six helpful tips for doing just that. how to | bookish how to | reading habits | making friends | making friends as an adult | adult friendship

Never fear! This is problem we can solve together.

1. Hang out in a bookstore.

If you go to your local bookshop enough, you’re bound to start bumping into the same people after a while. And sometimes the bookshops have events to help you make friends, too – the bookstore where I work has book clubs you can join and occasional meetups, including, recently, an introverts’ happy hour for reading together with minimal social interaction. Another one locally hosts a bookternet meetup. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you could even ask your local bookstore if you can start a book club in their space – the benefit of doing it this way is people will be drawn to a neutral space and not feel weird if they don’t know anyone else. Plus, you’ll be drawing from a much bigger circle than just your friends or even friends of friends – particularly as the bookshop will no doubt advertise your book club or at least mention it on their website.

2. Join a book club elsewhere.

It can take guts to join a group full of people you don’t know, but I did it six years ago and it’s still one of the best things I’ve ever done! If you’re not sure where to find one besides a local bookshop – and not everyone is lucky enough to have a bookshop nearby – here are some suggestions:

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  • post on Facebook asking if anyone knows anyone who’s interested in starting a book club, or is in one that you can join – you can do this on your own wall, or in one of the many reading-themed Facebook groups
  • post something on any other social media – Litsy is a great place to make lovely bookish friends

3. Chat to the person behind you in a book signing line.

Chances are, anyone who finds themselves in the same queue as you at a book event has more in common with you than just a favourite author. It can be awkward, but take a deep breath and ask them how they found out about the event or if they come to the bookstore often. At the very least, it’ll make the wait seem shorter – and who knows if you’ll end up making a lifelong friend!

4. Wear an enamel pin (or other conversation-starting merch).

You can wear a pin advertising your love of your favourite bookish podcast, or of reading more generally – or be less subtle and go all out with a tshirt. That way, other people – possibly other people looking for bookish friends  – will almost certainly start a conversation with you rather than you having to take the initiative, which can be daunting.

5. Join Bumble BFF.

But speaking of taking the initiative, if you are feeling brave enough to go on “dates” with potential new friends, Bumble BFF is great for that! You probably know of the popular dating app – BFF is another mode which can be found in the same app, where people are just looking for friends. You can say you like books in your profile, or even be more explicit say that you’re looking for people to talk books with or for a book club to join, and swipe right on fellow bookworms. Because of the app, I ended up getting invited to someone’s book club to speak when my novel came out! So it really does work.

6. Get a job in a bookstore.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a radical life choice, but I don’t think I know of a better way to meet fellow book nerds! People who go into bookselling are usually passionate about reading, so as well as being able to get paid for being among books, you’ll also have wonderful new colleagues dying to share their latest find or their opinion on the hot new novel. And on top of that, some customers will become regulars, and you may end up clicking with them, too!