When There’s Nothing To Talk About, What Do You Talk About?

After a year plus of friend-dating, I’ve found that when all else fails I can talk about books. Yell all you want about how TV and Facebook are ruining our attention spans and turning the human race into a bunch of morons, but I can attest that most of the women I have met this year—and I have met a lotare readers.

Last night I went to a really lovely dinner with a new friend and, as usual, talk turned to book clubs and what we are each currently reading. My PBFF was looking for some non-fiction recommendations, so I pulled out my trusty Goodreads app, scrolled through my virtual bookshelves and passed along some titles that might be a good fit. (In case you too are looking for non-fiction recs, my must-read, go-to-the-bookstore-right-now-do-not-pass-go suggestion was Dave Eggers’s  Zeitoun—my favorite book I’ve read in a long while. Others were In Cold Blood, Devil in the White City, and, of course, anything by AJ Jacobs, but especially The Year of Living Biblically.)

The wonderful thing about books—you know, besides the whole literacy, open-your-mind-to-whole-new-worlds, expand-your-creativity-and-flex-your-brain-muscles bit—is that they make wonderful conversation filler. I’ve had good luck this year, but not every date was easy chatter and instant BFF chemistry. And when all else failed, book talk saved the day. A simple “What are you reading now?” and you’re off to the races.

For me, television is another great conversation option, but I haven’t found it to be as foolproof as books. It’s less easy to recommend TV shows, because adding a new series to a viewing schedule is a pretty big investment. Also, for someone who watches a lot of TV, I often watch different shows than my potential friends. The absence of The Bachelor and True Blood and Dexter and Mad Men and any type of Real Housewife from my repertoire often turns TV talk into a dead end. With books, if you haven’t read each other’s favorites you can make to-read lists, and if you have, well, suddenly dinner is a mini-book club.

Obviously, talking books isn’t for everyone. When my husband meets a guy for the first time, if they have nothing else to talk about the conversation often falls to sports. For some of my friends around the country—those who aren’t particularly big into reading—sometimes silence filler comes in the way of foodie talk (new restaurants, food blogs, famous chefs), tabloid chatter, or anything Chelsea Handler. (These are all topics I’m more than happy to join in on myself. And speaking of foodie matters, and TV, last night was the third week in a row that I thought Top Chef was the finale and it wasn’t. Why so much Bahamas, people??)

What am I missing? When you find yourself in one of those painful, awkward-silence-filled conversations, what is your go-to conversation topic? And please don’t say the weather. That’s just a killer…

14 Comments

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14 responses to “When There’s Nothing To Talk About, What Do You Talk About?

  1. Rems

    I usually talk about food!!

  2. I have a few conversation topics, which apply to people at school I’m already friends with:
    -How is your assignment/studying/lab write-up going?
    -Are you going to [engineering event that's coming up]?
    Sometimes I do get stuck and chatter away about chocolate chip cookies

    Books are definitely a good topic.

    I’ve been reading Vinyl Café Diaries which is very entertaining.

  3. Elise

    Recognizing that this post is going to get you slammed with book recommendations, I will jump right in and say that if you liked The Year of Living Biblically, you should check out The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose.

  4. Emily

    Appropriate for the blog topic: The Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell…about best friends. I am in the middle of it and it really puts into words what many of us feel/observe.

    Avid Top Chef fan: it’s never ending…I think the week that they kept everyone (which was my favorite episode every), threw me off a little because we kept forgetting how many people are left. I don’t know who went home last night because it gets DVR’d and watched on Fridays.

  5. Books. Definitely books. If I ask what you’re reading and you say you don’t read, I am immediately going to have to rethink the whole shebang.

    Food and tv are also things I’ll talk about and then if we have kids in common, it always turns to kids as well.

  6. Lorrie Paige

    I find food reality shows–especially regarding contests–very odd and unappealing. Many viewers like me would like to participate in the judging as well, and while all you have to do is see to judge reality shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, how can you judge the food? You need to taste it as well. So I think it would be frustrating to watch.

    I would mention books as well, especially since what books one reads usually tells you a lot about ones’ personality. I’ve always said if you really want to get to know me, look at my personal home library.

    I’m currently finishing up on Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus, then will continue to read some philosophy books on Spiritism and, as always, read chick-lit. I’m still reading the Dolores Stewart Riccio series of “Circle” books. None of these which would make the best seller popularity list! Hahaha! So if someone says to me, wow, I read those kind of books too….I may have found my BFF.

  7. My grandmother always asks me about the weather with every phone call and it drives me crazy! We are in the same family, know the same people, and talk once a month – if the only thing left to discuss is the weather, then the conversation is over. I have that for small talk at work.
    I love discussing books with new friends, but a lot of times people remember loving a book, but can’t remember all of the details. I’m guilty of it too. Yet when we turn to celebrity gossip, couples, new movies, we somehow always keep the conversation flowing. And if you haven’t read Chelsea Handler’s books, they are a must! I kept laughing on the El, which was embarassing, but totally worth it. I hope the sitcom based on her books gets picked up :)

  8. I tend to go to current events and politics when the conversation gets slow.

    I would love to talk about books, but I find I read different kinds of books than most other people. (Unless they are writers too.)

  9. lawyerchik1

    Yesterday, there was a lull in the conversation, and we ended up talking about what had been each person’s favorite job and why. That was kind of fun. :)

  10. Liz

    Ok, as long as we are talking books – what is with the new “deckle-edge” craze? It’s really starting to drive me nuts. Did the machine that cuts all the pages so they are nice and smooth and even go on strike or something? ;)

  11. i like to start by asking their weekend plans, because that usually leads to a million other potential conversations….their family members, personal interests, where they live….you can learn a lot about a person by asking how they spend their spare time. great post! i really enjoy your writing style :)

  12. Since we are kinda on the topic of books what do you all think about the e-readers like Kindle, etc. I have been debating on if I should get one or not but I don’t know if I would like it. I enjoy the feel of real book, the look, smell etc. Plus there are studies that say by staring at a computer screen before bed will prevent you from falling asleep or getting good quality sleep. I know I’m not the only one who reads before bed.
    FYI: this would be a good conversation starter!

  13. For me, finding someone who even occasionally picks up a book is few and far between. I have some friends who think it’s funny how much I enjoy reading. Weird, I know. Anyways, would love to follow you, or any reader of this blog, on goodreads. :) http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3010547-diana?page=1&shelf=currently-reading

  14. Sophie

    Love this post! I usually turn to books, as I’m an avid reader, and there’s nothing better than gushing over the last book you read with someone. There’s also nothing worse than trying to talk about books witha non-reader, which is a situation I find myself in more often than not. Moral of that story – I’ve got to find some more educated friends!

    I’m a new reader to your blog – and a new post-college-Boston-dweller, and I want to thank you for your inspiration. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels (or has felt) this way :)

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