When dating, does taste in books matter?
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But is it a good idea to choose a date by the books he or she reads? Apparently, someone thinks so.
The new dating site—Alikewise.com—launched in July and pairs people according to their taste in books (according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it's attracted 4,000 users, mainly in their 20s and 30s). Sure, it sounds good on paper, but I'm not convinced.
Just because you both liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Catcher in the Rye doesn’t mean you’ll like each other. If that were true, then Amazon.com would have already harnessed its predictive abilities to match single shoppers based on what books, DVDs or tech gadgets they buy. As a voracious reader, I appreciate the idea of bringing book-lovers together. But I certainly don’t expect men to love Charlotte Bronte or Sophie Kinsella!
As long as he can appreciate a good story or witty wordplay, I don’t mind if he prefers Asimov to Austen, as my live-in boyfriend does. The bookcase in our living room is stacked high with sci-fi and tech titles that I haven’t read, but I’m happy to be surrounded by books.
There’s something sexy about turning your S.O. on to a new title or genre. How hot was it in The Reader when the adorable German teen read aloud to a rapt Kate Winslet? Exactly. (That she couldn’t actually read is beside the point. She could still appreciate the power of words.) How To Star In Your Own Romance Novel
When I think back over past relationships, one of the best gifts I ever got from an ex was a copy of Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s no-holds-barred culinary confessional. My then-boyfriend was reading the book and thought I might enjoy it, too. That purchase led to dinnertime discussions where we compared notes on our favorite scenes. We even made a pilgrimage to the restaurant of one of Bourdain’s mentors in Northern California, and I called him triumphantly when I ended up dining at Bourdain’s fancy French brasserie in NYC. It was the kind of book I’d never think to read on my own, but I loved its descriptions of food and eagerly devoured other books by Bourdain. What Happy Couples Have In Common
To be fair, though, that same ex also lost a bit of my respect by name-dropping a book he hadn’t read. I mean, if you’re gonna use The Five Love Languages (great book, by the way) as justification for why you aren’t more verbally communicative, the least you can do is actually read the book rather than the Wikipedia page! (Our breakup was unrelated to that incident, but still.)
Then there was the guy who unashamedly admitted on an early date that his last read was Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (also worth a read). “What about novels?” I asked. “Read any good literature lately?” I’m a bit of a nerd, so this was often my go-to question when conversation ground to an awkward silence on dates.
“Actually, Susan,” he told me between sips of beer, “I only read books that can teach me something. I’m trying to get better at dating so I read Men Are From Mars. But I doubt a novel would teach me anything useful.”
Much as I tried to reserve judgment (at least he was reading something, and I’m not above a self-help book—or 10), I felt that his disinterest in novels spoke volumes. Would he be that matter-of-fact about movie choices and insist that we only watch documentaries? Would he be willing to try non-educational activities just because they were fun? Online Dating: 7 Signs You Shouldn't Date Him
Of course, it goes both ways. I’ve judged, and I know men judge me based on my reading list. When I broke up with the Book Giver and added Kitchen Confidential to my Match.com profile, I got a lot more responses than when Memoirs of a Geisha and Jane Eyre were listed as favorite books.
I’ve learned not to take the Favorite Books section too literally. Plenty of people list “legal briefs” or “the manual for my HDTV” as the last thing they've read. In this case, honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy. How To Woo A Literary Lady
My Match.com days are over, but boyfriends past and present continue commenting on the books and magazines I read. “Another one with a pink cover?! Those are like junk food for the brain!” my current boyfriend will say, handing me his copy of World War Z to read instead.
But while we may not like the same books, we love each other—and we also love seeing who can work the biggest vocab word into conversation, or into a Scrabble game. Maybe one of these days, he’ll learn to love chick lit and I’ll learn to embrace zombie fiction. If not, we still have room in our bookcases for both.