Book Serendipity: 2020, Part I

I call it serendipitous 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 incidents. I also post these occasional reading coincidences on Twitter. (The following are in rough chronological order.)


  • A Wisconsin setting in three books within a month (Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner)


  • I came across a sculpture of “a flock of 191 silver sparrows” in Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano while also reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.
  • Characters nearly falling asleep at the wheel of a car in Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado


  • There’s no escaping Henry David Thoreau! Within the span of a week I saw him mentioned in The Library of Ice by Nancy Campbell, The Snow Tourist by Charlie English, Losing Eden by Lucy Jones and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Plus I’d just read the whole graphic novel Thoreau and Me by Cédric Taling.
  • Discussions of the work of D.H. Lawrence in Unfinished Business by Vivian Gornick and The Offing by Benjamin Myers


  • That scientific study on patient recovery in hospital rooms with a window view vs. a view of a brick wall turns up in both Dear Life by Rachel Clarke and Losing Eden by Lucy Jones.


  • The inverted teardrop shapes mirror each other on these book covers:

  • Punchy, one-word titles on all these books I was reading simultaneously:

  • Polio cases in The Golden Age by Joan London, Nemesis by Philip Roth and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner


  • An Italian setting and the motto “Pazienza!” in Dottoressa by Susan Levenstein and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner


  • Characters named Lachlan in The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson and The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts
  • Mentions of the insecticide Flit in Nemesis by Philip Roth and Sacred Country by Rose Tremain


  • A quoted Leonard Cohen lyric in Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott; Cohen as a character in A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson


  • Plague is brought to an English village through bolts of cloth from London in Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell; both also feature a woman who is a herbal healer sometimes mistaken for a witch (and with similar names: Anys versus Agnes)
  • Gory scenes of rats being beaten to death in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Nemesis by Philip Roth


  • Homemade mobiles in a baby’s room in A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson and Sacred Country by Rose Tremain


  • Speech indicated by italics rather than the traditional quotation marks in Pew by Catherine Lacey and Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson


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

19 responses

  1. Um. None. But then I only have one book at a time on the go… Great selection!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet you’ll still have a couple of weird coincidences this year where an element from one book pops up in the next book you pick up. When it does, let me know!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Year of Wonders. Have you read Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth? Both about quarantine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am loving Year of Wonders. (Unfortunately, it rather leaves Hamnet in the dust.) I’d not heard of that one; I’ll go look it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A librarian friend used to call this books talking to each other. Mind you, when she claimed to have come across two books in succession where an elderly eccentric had sex with goats I did wonder how she was selecting her reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, that’s quite the coincidence! I’ve had a few unsavoury ones like that, but I tend not to mention them 🙂


  4. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I’ve had a couple of strange ones lately – three books that mention L’il Wayne, and two books that make reference to characters writing letters to Princess Diana. I really should start to keep a record of these!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that first one from your Six Degrees post. Bizarre!


  5. Carolyn Anthony ( Marm) | Reply


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lachlan doesn’t seem to me like a common name! I must look out for these coincidences more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, which was why I was so surprised to find it twice! In the Australian case he shares a name with a river.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Although writing a letter to Princess Diana isn’t all that common either 🙂


    2. No … Kate would have to tell us if that was before or after she died! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to have only one book on the go at a time but I’m always looking out for connections as I like to pair my reviews on my blog.
    Have you read Lux by Elizabeth Cook? It’s partly influenced by the portrayal of Bathsheba in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like seeing your book pairings on Goodreads! Do you choose your next book based on its similarities to the previous one?

      I’d not heard of Lux. Unfortunately, my bad experience with The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks has turned me off from that biblical time period — though luckily not off her writing in general, as I’ve read two terrific works of historical fiction by her since then: March was a favourite a few years back, and I’m loving Year of Wonders.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sort of, although can be hard to intuit the connections I’ll find from the blurb. The best are the unanticipated.
        I haven’t read any Geraldine Brooks, thanks for the heads up.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had a couple recently, including two cardboard cut-out figures of celebrities in books read perhaps in February, and two people who like completely blank walls in their rooms (not mentioned yet on my blog as reviewing one of them on Tuesday). I always try to mention you and link to your blog when I spot them.

    Liked by 1 person

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