Sometimes a book becomes huge because it’s relevant to its time, has something interesting to say, and hits people on a deeply personal level. But more often a book becomes big because people long for shared experiences.
Usually we read things our friends and family don’t read, and so there’s no one to talk to about it when we’re done. That can be frustrating, because when you’re inside of a book, you get to know its world and characters in a deep and intimate way—often, more deeply and intimately than we know anyone in the real world. If you have someone to talk to about the book, you’re sharing a deeply intimate experience. Both of you have been inside the same character’s head; both of you have lived the same romantic rejections, or thrilling escapes, or personal tragedies. Hardly anything connects people better than this. Film, theater, music … these are all snapshots; you read a book with someone and it can feel like you’re sharing a whole life. That’s why people sometimes read things they think are mediocre—because sometimes we read to experience something outside of the pages of the book. There is real value in this.