What’s a deal breaker book to find on your date/lover’s shelf? In the old days, this wasn’t so much a problem. If I managed to actually make it back to someone’s apartment, I certainly wasn’t going to hit the eject button over a little Douglas Coupland. Nowadays, I’m a little more discerning. And it needn’t even be a relationship so interesting as “lovers”. I’ve broken the emergency glass and retrieved the fire axe at potential friends’ houses. Oh MY GOD! It’s The Celestine Prophecy! Gather the children and back slowly out of the dining room!
We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about … their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”
I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m mercilessly judging you. Not based on what you’ve read, but based on what you’ve proudly displayed. Mind you, I might be a hypocrit here. I haven’t checked in the last little while what the Bookninja slush pile has done to my shelves. I guess I should. People even send me chicklit books. I have piles that go from dour Coetzee covers to pink pumps. A purge or controlled fire is in order.