Dating And Your Reading List…

The section of the bookstore you’re drawn to speaks volumes about your dating style. Read on to learn what your preferred genre says about you — and your partner.

By Bob Strauss

couple of years ago I happened to bring an old, hardcover biography of Queen Elizabeth I (which I’d bought in a thrift store for a dollar) along on vacation with me to my girlfriend’s sister’s house in Seattle, WA. And every day, an odd little ritual repeated itself: After I’d rousted myself from my comfy chair to grudgingly socialize with my prospective in-laws, sis’s six-year-old son would
These readers “tend to think they understand their partners’ motivations…”
solemnly retrieve the book and his two-year-old sister would follow a couple of minutes later, solemnly bearing the bookmark. By the end of our trip, everyone knew that I was reading a biography of Queen Elizabeth I. And they were all probably wondering: Who is this guy?

The fact is, the type of books you and your partner read — just like the music you listen to or the way you dress — speaks volumes (sorry) about your relationship style. What if you like James Patterson and your significant other adores Thomas Pynchon? What if your partner drifts off to sleep leafing through self-help paperbacks while you read Marvel comics under the covers with a flashlight? Well, I don’t know about those particular cases — but with the valuable help of Shannon Fox, former host of the Discovery Health Channel show Love on the Rocks, I’ve compiled a quick guide to some of the more basic genres:

“It doesn’t take a trained therapist to guess that readers of romance novels are seeking — wait for it — romance,” says Fox. “This person longs to be courted, needs to feel cherished and loves flowers and chivalry. The downside is that it’s unrealistic to expect this kind of behavior on a daily basis and it would be exhausting for anyone to try to live up to the bodice-ripping, scented-oil dripping fervor of a trashy romance novel.” In other words, guys, feel free to return that suit of burnished armor to your local costume shop, but do try to make the occasional romantic gesture, like taking out your girlfriend’s trash when you pick her up for a date without being asked first.

Literary Classics
According to Fox, readers of “difficult” novels “enjoy a window into a character’s mind and life experience; they’re good at empathizing with their partners and can defuse conflict by putting themselves in their partner’s shoes.” But does that apply to you? Well, depending on your level of education, classic literature can encompass anything from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to the infamous Finnegans Wake. The down side? These readers “tend to think they understand their partners’ motivations and reactions when they might be far off the mark,” Fox concedes. Here’s a helpful tip: Discuss issues that arise in the books you’re reading and see if there are true parallels to your own
Some might accuse graphic novel fans of being stuck in adolescence or childhood.
relationship, or if they’re just plot points that conveniently move the story (and sometimes, angst) along.

True Crime
I’ve polled my own circle of friends about this, and the results are ambivalent. Dan from New Jersey says, “My partner reads true crime books almost exclusively, and it seriously freaks me out. I’m pretty sure she’s planning to dismember me and dispose of my body in a bog at some point in the future.” Susan from Florida offers another perspective on the genre: “I think it’s interesting that so many people are interested in true crime, forensic pathology and other tales of criminal depravity. I have to say that I know a number of those readers and they are law-abiding, kind and not at all depraved.” If you’re unsure where you stand, check under your partner’s side of the bed when nobody’s around. If you find a weapon or other questionable object there, beat a hasty retreat.

Graphic Novels
I am very familiar with this genre, actually. When I’m not reading biographies of long-deceased sovereigns, my nose is typically buried in a Sandman or Fables compilation. “Some might accuse graphic novel fans of being stuck in adolescence or childhood, but I see this type of reader as having strong beliefs about right and wrong,” says Fox. “These people make very loyal partners who value truth and trust in a relationship, but they can also judge people by high standards, i.e., seeing every decision as black or white with no room for gray.” I think Fox is absolutely right; if you disagree, I want nothing to do with you ever again. (Maybe Fox is right.)

“As an author of self-help books, this is my favorite type of reader,” Fox enthuses. “This is a person who’s willing to work on personal issues, who recognizes that everyone is flawed and who comes to a relationship with refreshing humility.” So what’s the down side to the self-help genre? “This type of reader may constantly try to fix a partner, and take it from a married psychotherapist — analyzing your partner does not always go over well,” says Fox. Here’s my advice: Unless your partner is tearing through a self-help titled something like How to Dismember Your Graphic-Novel Reading, Totally Unromantic Partner with Proustian Panache and Never Get Caught, just mumble reassuring things from under the covers as you catch up on the latest Alan Moore or David Mack releases.

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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