Rachel Sugar over at The Date Report wrote this piece: All the Books I Lied About Reading to Impress Guys (And Then Read Anyway). It’s pretty funny. And: who hasn’t read something because the person we like said they did? I’ve done it. Dudes have done it for me. And it’s always weird.
Although, if you’re lucky, you can get a good read out of the situation. Unlike Sugar, I’ve had an OK reading experience when I’ve read a book because a dude told me it was his fave. Not on my top ten. I haven’t read either book a second time. But they weren’t bad. The first one was Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. The Dastardly Pirate who recommended it to me wasn’t aghast when I said I hadn’t read any Vonnegut, but he claimed I would like him. After that conversation I went out and bought Bluebeard and read it immediately. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I still haven’t read anything else by Vonnegut, but it was an interesting read and I appreciated it. I also found it extremely interesting that the Pirate’s favorite book is a story about a cantankerous artist who did the art that everyone else was doing because everyone was doing it until it started falling apart.
The other book I’ve read “because it’s his favorite book”, he actually gave to me as a Christmas present. We were barely dating and I didn’t think presents were necessary, but he showed up days after Christmas with a pair of earrings he made for me and a copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. For our relationship, this wasn’t promising. The TMM wanted me to give Steinbeck a second chance (because I hate him more than the overturned turtle hates crossing the road). I think the vehemence in my speech concerning Steinbeck made him sad. He assured me I “didn’t have to read” the book, and certainly not “right away”, but he fucking gave me his favorite book as a present: of course I had to read it. I didn’t hate it nearly as much as I hate both The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. I understood his point about the language being beautiful (I even cried at the end, it was so lovely), but I knew our relationship was doomed as I started to see the TMM in both Doc and Mack (or vice versa). Even though my eyes were beginning to open, I held onto that relationship for far longer than I ought to have.
Sugar’s life lessons learned from reading books for dudes were: “be yourself” and “you are not Charles Bukowski’s target audience” (amen). Mine is: don’t read his favorite book unless you’re sure you want to know these things about him. At the time we all thought it was super sexy when Jess Mariano wrote margin notes in Rory Gilmore’s copy of “Howl”, but now that we’re grown and more experienced we all know it was fucking punk move. Any dude who wants to color your experience with a text is a thoughtless doofus. As Sugar points out: “…identical reading lists are not the key to romantic compatibility”. Neither, as it turns out, is being from the same area or playing the same instrument (which I already knew from high school: I never found the boys who played the same instrument as me attractive – unless he was Brazilian). It takes more than liking the same books, or music, or movies, or comic book villains, or ethnic food, or historical era, or African songbirds to make a healthy relationship.