New Meme Alert: Six Degrees of Separation


It is claimed that every person on this planet is linked to any other in six or fewer steps.  But what about books?  Can we link them together too?

In 1929, Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called ‘Chains’ in which he coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’.

Annabel Smith and I are excited to announce a new meme, based on the idea in Karinthy’s story.  On the first Saturday of every month, we will be choosing a book, and then linking it to five other books to form a chain.  We will also be inviting our readers and other bloggers to join us by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

The books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings.  Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, given to you by a particular friend, that remind you of a particular time in your life, or that you read for a challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules.  A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

For example, imagine the selected book was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

I might link this to The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – a contemporary novel which riffs on the idea of the marriage plot in 19th century novels.

One of the characters in Eugenides’ book goes on a spiritual odyssey to India, as does the protagonist in Drusilla Modjeska’s memoir Poppy.

From Poppy, I make the leap to another favorite memoir: Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

Also by Didion is the novel A Book Of Common Prayer, about a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in a Banana Republic.

This leads me to Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the story of an embassy siege in an unnamed South American country.

As well as being an intense drama, Bel Canto is also a surprising and deeply felt love story, which calls to mind Yvette Walker’s exquistite debut Love Letters to the End of Love.

Thus, we have moved six degrees of separation from Pride and Prejudice to Letters to the End of Love.

Of course, your chain will look completely different.  It doesn’t matter what the connection is or where it takes you – just take us on the journey with you.  Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book too: you can always find ways to link it based on your expectations/ideas about it. 

Here are the rules:

#6Degrees Rules

We hope this meme will be fun, get your mind working, and give you lots of new book recommendations.  As a blogger, you can join in by posting your own six degrees chain, and adding the link to your post in the comment section of our posts.  If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments of Annabel’s or my post.

Our first post of the meme will be posted this time next week on Saturday 5th April and the book we will begin our chains with is Hannah Kent’s thrilling debut, Burial Rites, which has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize and longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize.

The next book will be The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  I’m looking forward to see all the weird and wonderful chains we come up with.


37 Comments on “New Meme Alert: Six Degrees of Separation

  1. This is such an awesome idea, especially for anyone who loves books as much as I do! And what a great way to create a To Be Read list, as everyone will have different tastes and suggest books from different genres.

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