What Your Date's Favorite Book Says About His or Her Personality
Many years ago, with the very first Guide in Pajiba's years' long series of them, Dustin wrote a post called Pajiba's Guide to Third-Date Flicks, which essentially characterized the personality of your date based upon that movie he or she cracks out on your third date, traditionally your first stay-in engagement. Today, we thought we'd do the same with books. Joanna is a professional book seller; Dustin is an avid reader. Joanna was an English major; Dustin was a creative writing major with a minor in English. So, we've spent a lot of time in the company of people who read, and we've been able to glean certain personality types based upon the books they may cite as their favorite.
Hopefully, this post will guide you through your existing or forthcoming dating experiences and offer you untold insights into your romantic interests.
Women Dating Men
Catcher in the Rye -- If your date's favorite book is Catcher in the Rye, he's a member of a very annoying literary cult. He probably also has romanticized a high-school flame to such an extent that you'll never be able to compete. Yet despite the unrealistic romantic expectations, he has a victim complex, he's hopelessly cynical and often a jerk -- behavior he refutes by insisting you're the jerk. Plus, he's not nearly as high-minded as he thinks he is. More frustratingly, he spells "goddam" [sic] wrong. He's phony material.
Atlas Shrugged -- So he loves Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, huh? Then he probably also says things like "I'm not a Republican or a Democract. I'm a libertarian." In reality, he's just as jackass. I wouldn't expect that he's a very compassionate person, either, because he believes you should deal with your own sh*t, so expect to get your own damn soup when you're laid up with the flu. He's also very full of himself and insists that he worked himself all the way up to middle management by his bootstraps. Good for him! There's also a pretty decent chance he hasn't read a fiction novel since high school. Ironically, despite different political opinions, men who cite 1984 as their favorite book often fit the same character type, although they tend to be more paranoid than contrarian.
Infinite Jest -- If your date's favorite book is David Foster Wallace's massive Infinite Jest, there's either one of two things going on here: First, and more likely, he's never read the damn book, he just skimmed the Wikipedia entry so he could say enough about it to impress you because he's dumb enough to believe that the length of a novel correlates with intelligence. In reality, he doesn't understand a goddamn thing about Infinite Jest. The second possibility, and the more appealing one, is that he has read it, and if you want to know if he's an honest guy, ask him what he thinks about it. If he says, "I didn't understand a goddamn thing about it," then you've got yourself a keeper, whether he marveled at the novel or not. If he loved it, that's even better news: He won't expect any sort of structure or tidiness, so long as you're capable of a nice turn of phrase and a lot of great ideas that you never really have any intention of following up on. The downside? If you break up, don't expect any closure: He'll probably just walk away. (Potential Danger: He could also be a manic depressive).
A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius -- If your man says his favorite book is Dave Eggers' opus, he's probably a great guy with a troubled past that he's incapable of speaking about unironically, which is a transparent defense mechanism. I would also caution that, though the relationship may begin as a fun, whimsical one characterized by great moments of cleverness and clarity, after awhile, he may begin to take himself too seriously, start to take on the personalities of others, morph into one of those "cause freaks" out of a sense of white guilt, and eventually become a pointless bore. Avoid.
High Fidelity -- Yes! If your man loves High Fidelity, you're in good shape, right? Well, maybe. He's likely a very introspective person who spends a lot of time processing his feelings, and he is capable of great romantic gestures on occasion. However, his list-making -- adorable, at first -- may begin to grate, and his obsession with drawing an analogy with every single moment of his life to a piece of music might get a little irritating. He's an obsessive, a romantic, but he's also a narcissist, and those romantic gestures are more about him than they are about impressing you. Moreover, if you're not able to speak of the world and its relationship to him, he may eventually abandon you in favor of someone more willing to make it all about his needs, wants, and ego. The good news is, he'll leave you with a delightful mix-tape collection.
Tuesdays with Morrie -- Run. Run away as fast as you can. Is he weeping already? Oh, damnit. You're too late.
Harry Potter -- Oh, honey. Put him back in the pond and let him gestate a few more years. I'm sure he's very nice, and very sweet, which are the two nicest adjectives you never want to associate with your boyfriend unless he is Andy Dwyer. Let him get his heart broken a few more times, gain some life experience, and maybe give him another shot in five or 10 years if you're both still single.
Slaughterhouse Five -- Honestly, I wish this were my favorite book, because guys that cite Kurt Vonnegut's sci-fi novel as their favorite tend to be the best. He's adventurous and fun, literary but not pretentious, creative but not eccentric, and smart, with enough confidence not to have to prove it. This guy is not for everyone -- he's on the geeky, thoughtful side, and he's probably not that handy around the house, but no man is perfect. The Slaughterhouse Five guy, however, is as close as you're going to get. (See also: Catch 22.)
Men Dating Women
The Nicholas Sparks Ouevre: Okay friend, to be perfectly honest, I'm worried for your safety. If your
simpleton lady prefers the interchangeable works of Nicholas Sparks, then, in her mind, life-threatening drama equals romance. So, uh, I'd keep any and all matches out of reach. Be wary if she suggests a) dancing in the rain; b) keeping the windows open on a cold night; or c) going without layers in the winter. Heck, if I were you, I'd check your food, your brakes and your basic survival instincts on a regular basis.
Wuthering Heights -- If you are, underneath it all, a massive throbbing psychopath, then look for the girl with the well-worn copy of "Wuthering Heights." Have your previous girlfriends ditched you because of your fits of rage? Your perma-glower? Your reluctance to shower? Well worry not, psychopath, this is the lady for you. Go ahead, get blindingly drunk and wander the moors. Heck, strangle a puppy, see if she cares.
The Color Purple -- Ah, listen, I hate to break it to you but if you're a dude and your lady date loves this book, I'm not overly optimistic about the longevity of your relationship. If you're a lady who loves ladies, however, then you're in luck. Your date is a strong-minded, self-sufficient woman who will not take crap from anyone. Looking to get a present for your "Color Purple"-loving date? Get her some pants. B*tches love pants.
Pride and Prejudice -- It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lot of women love this book. Your typical "Pride and Prejudice"-loving lady probably considers herself "witty" and possibly even "bookish." While that's possibly the case, there's an equally likely chance that she enjoys "Pride and Prejudice" for the "wrong reasons" (aka she thinks it's Nicholas Sparks with cravats and britches). So this could go either way for you, gentle reader. Either you've found a lady with a deep appreciation for irony or ... you haven't. The upshot? You can get away with being an asshole for ¾ of your relationship and she'll likely just think you're misunderstood.
Lolita -- Oh you beautiful nymphet. Run. Don't walk.
Twilight -- You know what, hats off to you, sir. If your date's favorite book is "Twilight" or any iteration thereof, then I applaud the way you're willing to look past her severe and possibly crippling brain damage to see the enfeebled, immature essence of her character. Sure, sure, you'll have to make sure she has her drool cup and helmet with her at all times, but what a small price to pay. If you want to ensure her life-long, slavering devotion, invest in a tub of SPF 80, dump some glitter in and apply liberally. But my brave little toaster, if you were hoping to take your helmeted darling to pound town before marriage, I'm afraid you're out of luck.
The Princess Bride -- Careful bro, caaareful. If this is your date's favorite movie, then romantic expectations will be at an all-time high. Like, candlelit dinners and walks on the beach are fine and all, but you may have to cheat death more than once to achieve True Love status in her eyes. Also, protip buddy, if there's a rodent of any kind of size on the premises, you'll be expected to take care of it. Heroically. Your reward? Well, if this is really her favorite book (and not just her favorite movie), then your date has a fantastic sense of humor. Although perfect breasts are not guaranteed, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, buddy.