Book Serendipity Incidents of 2019 (So Far)

I’ve continued to post my occasional reading coincidences on Twitter and/or Instagram. This is when two or more books that I’m reading at the same time or in quick succession have something pretty bizarre in common. Because I have so many books on the go at once – usually between 10 and 20 – I guess I’m more prone to such serendipitous incidents. (The following are in rough chronological order.)

What’s the weirdest coincidence you’ve had lately?


  • Two titles that sound dubious about miracles: There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald and The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams

  • Two titles featuring light: A Light Song of Light by Kei Miller and The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer


  • Grey Poupon mustard (and its snooty associations, as captured in the TV commercials) mentioned in There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald and Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp


  • “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (the Whitney Houston song) referenced in There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald and Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith


  • Two books have an on/off boyfriend named Julian: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp and Extinctions by Josephine Wilson


  • There’s an Aunt Marjorie in When I Had a Little Sister by Catherine Simpson and Extinctions by Josephine Wilson
  • Set (at least partially) in a Swiss chalet: This Sunrise of Wonder by Michael Mayne and Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer


  • A character named Kiki in The Sacred and Profane Love Machine by Iris Murdoch, The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer, AND Improvement by Joan Silber


  • Two books set (at least partially) in mental hospitals: Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame


  • Two books in which a character thinks the saying is “It’s a doggy dog world” (rather than “dog-eat-dog”): The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy


  • Reading a novel about Lee Miller (The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer), I find a metaphor involving her in My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: (the narrator describes her mother) “I think she got away with so much because she was beautiful. She looked like Lee Miller if Lee Miller had been a bedroom drunk.” THEN I come across a poem in Clive James’s Injury Time entitled “Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bathtub”
  • On the same night that I started Siri Hustvedt’s new novel, Memories of the Future, I also started a novel that had a Siri Hustvedt quote (from The Blindfold) as the epigraph: Besotted by Melissa Duclos


  • In two books “elicit” was printed where the author meant “illicit” – I’m not going to name and shame, but one of these instances was in a finished copy! (the other in a proof, which is understandable)


  • Three books in which the bibliography is in alphabetical order BY BOOK TITLE! Tell me this is not a thing; it will not do! (Vagina: A Re-education by Lynn Enright; Let’s Talk about Death (over Dinner) by Michael Hebb; Telling the Story: How to Write and Sell Narrative Nonfiction by Peter Rubie)


  • References to Gerard Manley Hopkins in Another King, Another Country by Richard Holloway, This Sunrise of Wonder by Michael Mayne and The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt (these last two also discuss his concept of the “inscape”)


  • Creative placement of words on the page (different fonts; different type sizes, capitals, bold, etc.; looping around the page or at least not in traditional paragraphs) in When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back by Naja Marie Aidt [not pictured below], How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton, Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Alice Iris Red Horse: Selected Poems of Yoshimasu Gozo and Lanny by Max Porter

  • Twin brothers fall out over a girl in Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and one story from the upcoming book Meteorites by Julie Paul


  • Characters are described as being “away with the fairies” in Lanny by Max Porter and Away by Jane Urquhart


  • Schindler’s Ark/List is mentioned in In the Beginning: A New Reading of the Book of Genesis by Karen Armstrong and Telling the Story: How to Write and Sell Narrative Nonfiction by Peter Rubie … makes me think that I should finally pick up my copy!

19 responses

  1. Pick up Schindler’s list Yes, you should…. when you have a moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s often hardest to ‘find’ time for the books I own that don’t fit into any particular reading project. I meant to read this last summer to tie into the Booker Prize 50th anniversary celebrations, but failed at the first hurdle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this! Thanks for putting together this list 😀 I usually have 8-10 books on the go, so I also stumble across these coincidences quite often. My most recent vaguely in this line was that I’m reading Lonely City by Olivia Laing – then started Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and the opening was an extract from Laing’s book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Puts another Eleanor in my head, “Eleanor Rigby” — “Ah, look at all the lonely people”! I’ve read both of those, but had forgotten about Laing being used as an epigraph.


  3. Oh, and bibliographies that are alphabetical by title?! No! No! Tell me they at least excluded articles.


    1. Darn, I’ve returned the Hebb book to the library so can’t check it. The Rubie doesn’t go by articles, thankfully. I’m sure I’ve come across some books recently that did, though — a whole section of “Thes” between S and T! It just seems so wrong to me. Then again, I started writing essays with bibliographies half a lifetime ago, so the format is second nature to me even though I left academia long ago. But even if an author constructed a bibliography by title, you’d think someone at the publishing house would have standardized it?


  4. I did laugh at your comment about being ‘away with the fairies’ as that’s an expression I probably over use! My coincidence is that just about every book I pick up these days references John Clare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet one or more of those was by John Lewis-Stempel 😉 Have you read The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds?


      1. You know me well – I love Lewis-Stempel’s writing! The Adam Foulds book is on my TBR list.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this! I had one a while ago and didn’t note it down!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep a Word file on my desktop to note things in right away, or I jot them down on a bit of paper. Otherwise, those fleeting connections are gone before you know it.


  6. I rarely have more than 2 or 3 on the go, so get fewer of these – but they do happen – and I always forget to note them! Love the ones you’re able to pick out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For some reason I thought you were a one-at-a-time reader.


      1. One at a time fiction, but often 2 NF

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The most recent one for me is the use of “brouhaha” in books I read back-to-back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fun! That’s definitely not a word you see all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. […] two months since my last Book Serendipity entry, and already another 17 occurrences! I post these occasional reading coincidences on Twitter and/or […]


  9. […] 2019 Book Serendipity posts from April and […]


  10. […] 2019 Book Serendipity posts covered April, July and […]


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