June 2003

Jessa Crispin


How to Screen Dates With Books

For bookworms, I'm not sure there's a bigger turnoff than a person who doesn't read. Readers tend to want to date other readers. It's more difficult than you think. Just look through some ads on Nerve.com. As an answer to the question, "What was the last great book you read?" many answer, "I don't read about life. I just live it." But what if they're more secretive about their non-reading habits? Here are a few ways to make sure you don't find this out too far into the relationship.

1. Use your books to lure dates.

Reading cult novels in public places is a big draw. Make sure the cover is highly visible. Just imagine if you walked by someone reading one of your favorite but not well known authors. You'd stop and mention it, right? Cult novels work best because they have dedicated followers, but are obscure enough that it's not surprising to see someone reading them in public.

Also, reading comic books in public is a good way to attract boys. However, you may also have to put up with sexist geek boys saying things like, "You're a girl! And you're reading a comic!" Luckily their heads will probably explode after a minute or so, leaving the area clear for a real catch.

2. Mention that you read books on the first date.

This will screen out anyone who thinks reading is a giant waste of time. They'll react the same way most meat eaters do to a vegetarian's declaration of their meat-free lifestyle. It's easy to drop into a conversation. If he mentions a movie based on a book, say you've read the book. If he answers with, "Oh God, I haven't read a book since college!" quietly excuse yourself to the restroom, shimmy out the window and leave him with the bill.

3. Name drop.

Once it has been established that you both think reading is a good idea, start working in author names and test for his reaction. If, for example, when you say you think Michael Crichton is a whore, he says The Lost World changed his life, go out the bathroom window. On the other hand, if he says he, too, loved it when Alasdair Gray showed up in his novel Lanark, you should propose marriage.

Just remember, start out slowly. Perhaps you shouldn't mention your collection of Kathy Acker first editions until you've warmed him up a bit. If you're into fierce literature, say how much you're looking forward to the new Chuck Palahniuk and work from there. And in my experience, admitting you read science fiction and comics will guarantee action on the first date.

4. Get into his apartment and check out his bookshelves.

Most people head to the music section, but I think you can tell more about a guy from his books. After all, even my Republican conservative-as-all-get-out friend has a copy of Little Earthquakes. It doesn't signify sensitivity.

First off, where are his bookshelves? Hidden in the bedroom? Or proudly displayed in the living room? Are they stacked neatly and therefore look like they're never touched? Or are there random piles, books cluttering end tables and all other flat surfaces? Is his magazine rack hiding a year's worth of Maxim underneath the few Atlantic Monthly's shoved on top?

If he has that one book that you love intensely but no one else has ever heard of, like Obabakoak and Lanark are for me, bring this to his attention. Or just try not to squeal with delight. He has probably been looking for that one other person as well. I'm sure you'll have beautiful children together.

5. If he fails all of the above, but still gets you an amazing edition of Ulysses for your birthday, forgive him for never reading anything thicker than Esquire.

It's worth it. Trust me.