Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Books Are Hot

By Jamelah Earle on Tuesday, September 9, 2008 12:37 am

A few years ago, there was a meme floating around the intertubes that centered around the concept of literary speed dating, which is speed dating, except with books. The point was to list the books you'd take to such an event as a means of showcasing your personality, and also to list the books that, if you saw someone with them, you'd think were attractive picks. I never did this meme because I tend to be cranky about these things, and I'm not going to do it today, but the idea has been floating around my brain for a little while, and I thought I'd use it as a jumping-off point to write about something that's slightly related.

I have no idea how I would even begin to pick a few books as a means of showing another person who I am, because for one thing I have so many books that such an exercise would be so entirely daunting that even attempting it would most likely leave me going crazy in the middle of a massive pile of literature and I just don’t need that. Even so, it’s interesting to think that another person could judge my attractiveness or lack thereof based on what I like to read. Yet of course this is part of it, right? I mean, I try not to be overly judgmental but let’s just say that when I went out with that guy who thought Ernest Hemingway wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I wasn’t terribly upset when we didn’t go out again. Is that a dealbreaker for me? I think so, yes.

Attraction and compatibility are strange beasts and I am not even going to attempt to analyze the way they work. I’ll leave that to the likes of Cosmo. But here’s a question for you: how big of a role do books play in another person’s attractiveness? I don’t know if I have an answer to this question myself, but I do know that I briefly dated someone who didn’t read and while his lack of interest in literature was not the reason things didn’t work out, it did limit our conversations. I like talking about books. Go figure.

So I wonder, and perhaps you can enlighten me: are books hot? Are all books hot? Or are only some books hot? For me, I know that I like a man who knows his Shakespeare. Who will at least give Milan Kundera a fighting chance. Who doesn’t spell it “Neil Cassidy.” I talk about Jane Austen a lot, and is that going to be a problem? Things like that.

Maybe once again I am letting my inner nerd become way too outer, but there’s something kind of sexy about finding someone who likes books and can hold his own in an intelligent discussion about them. I don’t think it’s the top of the list, because, I mean, there are other more important things, such as a sense of humor and a lack of heinous B.O., but it’s still in the running. Somewhere.

I’ll leave you with still more questions, and I hope you answer them, because I think it could be fascinating or at least mildly amusing. Is it possible to tell by someone's reading habits if that person is worth dating? Say before deciding whether or not to date someone you're already generally attracted to, you got to look at that person's bookshelves. Would this be a telling exercise? Would the presence (or absence) of certain books be a turn on or a turn off? Which ones?

10 Responses to "Books Are Hot"

Books are hot. My first wife was much of a reader (think Bill Hicks at Waffle House) but my current wife, and the one I should have married early on, is awesome in so many ways, but literarily she is untouchable. She has read most Pulitzers, can diagram most Maya Angelou, loves Mark Richard (as do I) and isn’t afraid of the Palahniuks and Danielewskis of the world.

Were I dating, and I am so happy I am not, books would be one of my personality barometers. Variety would be a key category in that group. Can she hang with the heavyweights? Has she read one Pynchon all the way through? Does she get Chabon’s quirk? Can she appreciate Chucky P’s nihilism? What about Craig Clevenger’s attention to detail? If she doesn’t cry reading Amy Hempel, I know there will be hell.

Besides, there’s something about a lone person reading a book that just makes you want to talk to them.

Books are hot.

by Benji on

"It's not what you're like, it's what you like . . "

Ah, that slippery thin mint of sugary divide betwixt culture and cantankerous, pretension and popularity. On one side is the basic understanding that this stuff (Literary-ness, if I may coin a rather juvenile word) isn't really, truly, necessary for survival, or even virtue. There are in fact many people who get along just fine, doing amazing things like raising their children or building homeless shelters, without so much as cracking hardback covers after their classroom years.

On the other side . . well, how could you not? How could anyone look favorably upon the choice of war without first having read what Auden or Wilfred Owen wrote? Form thoughts and dreams of love without Neruda, Dickinson, or Plath. Just how are so many good, otherwise moral people, so ready to abandon books that foster that kind of thoguht?

Well, boggles my mind for sure. I guess I'm on the middle ground as far as literary judgment goes. I prefer she reads, I would love if we could compare favorite Eliot or McGrath pieces, but it's not an absolute necessity. The unfortunate other third of the population though, the "Oh, tee-hee, I don't read . . " individuals. Well, tch; never.

Anyway, as long as you're here and reading, my list of five to describe myself:

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
Fight Club, Chuck Palahuik
Contact, Carl Sagan (Or Prufock and other Observations, T. S. Eliot)
The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Ed. Alan Kaufman
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

by stevadore on

Absolutely, books are hot. Funny thing is, my wife, who is an incredible force of a woman (her friends call her the 'real' Martha Stewart) is not only ill-read, she thinks it's almost a waste of time to read fiction etc. It's one of the only things we don't see eye to eye on. But I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's so hot.

Good thing, though, that I get to make literary love with a family friend (female) who is more well read than myself and who will talk with me about books, books and more books whenever we get together. It takes the edge off, if you know what I mean. She's hot too, but in a different way...

by Brian on

To scale back a bit, I look to Mr. John Waters, who famously said somewhat recently that if you go to someone's house to hook up with them and they don't have books, do NOT have sex with that person. People should have books - in their home, in their bag, on their person. One way to encourage reading - and one could refine this approach to encourage quality reading - is to withhold sex from those who do not do it. Besides, there are few things less sexy than someone who can talk about tv ad nauseum but goes glazed at the mention of an author. Right?

by TKG on

Yeah. People with books are intrguing. Tannat said it well: "there’s something about a lone person reading a book that just makes you want to talk to them."

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Turn offs would be: supermarket newspapers, lesbian/gay literotica (not that there's anything wrong with that), Christian inspirational pamphlets, Mein Kampf, a Loreanna Bobbitt how-to book, Karl Rove's number written on top of the yellow pages, and any books by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill O'Reilly. I would have to ask why there was a copy of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto. Just say no to Reader's Digest Condensed Books and Harlequin Romances.

A woman who gets off on me would be a real turn on.

It would be unbelievable if she had copies of my books. A well worn Cony Island of the Mind in a Chinese translation would be intriguing. Leaves of Grass in a large-font version would require a question. A coffee table book of Roy Lichtenstein would make me hard. So would the Joy of Sex. I would really like to see an open novel--something I hadn't read and wanted to--turned upside down open breaking the spine on the valve-tank on the toilet.

All that said, love would be enough for me and her wanting at least one child by me but not by other men while we were together.

I gotta tell you my speed dating story from many years ago. A novice at speed dating, I decided that my one question to each of the ten men would be: "What was the last book you read?" So. 8 of the 10 looked at me blankly. I almost had to explain what a book was. The other two - I kid you not - were both reading a book called "How to Negotiate".
No, true love was not found that night. Do better, boys!

by rubiao on

I have found myself recently intrigued by educated women without any books. What could be more fascinating than someone with no interest in the written word? Reading has become uber-fashionable, causing everyone to keep some books around the house, even if they are clearly your high school Greek Literature texts (C'mon! Who really buys Aeschylus?) mixed in with a few gifts (Freidman, Bryson, Palahniuk). Oh wait, you took a Shakespeare course in college?

I preface this statement by saying that they would not be completely ignorant people to begin with, otherwise I probably wouldn't find myself checking out their bookcase. Plus, we're not going to have enough room for my books, much less hers.

There are very few books that I think would swing me into liking a person, but definitely some. Chromos, Quincas Borba, Savage Detectives. Opinion changers. Tristram Shandy would do a lot to impress my sense of humor.

by Edgar on

Oh Tania, that sounds nightmarish. My wife read more by the time she was 18 than I've read in my entire life, no kidding. She had a stormy youth in which she spent a lot of it reading through sleepless nights. I love the fact that almost no matter what I read, we can discuss it. Even though her conversation is sometimes like this: "You're reading Gatsby again?!?! Here, have a drink! You gotta be drunk to read Fitzgerald."

by Cal Godot on

Speed dating was not invented for, and cannot be compatible with, those who read frequently. Speed dating is for impatient people, and most readers are far from impatient. Speed dating is for people who cannot wait to discover things, while readers (especially fiction readers) are fond of discoveries that come from long investments of time. Speed daters know what they want, and they want only that, and little else: readers on the other want many things, often don't know it, and are eager for surprises. Speed dating lacks mystery, while reading is the most mysterious thing humans do (other than perhaps making music).

Reading is hot. Books are hot. Jamelah is hot.

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