Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bookish Romance

Browsing Twitter this morning, I saw a link to this post about a dating site that matches singles based on the books they read. Apparently, you can search for a date by talking about the books you like and searching for people who like specific titles and authors.

First of all, let me just state for the record that I'm a happily married woman and won't be using the site myself, but for obvious reasons it caught my eye. I don't think I could deal with a guy who wasn't a reader, and every guy I've ever dated (or wanted to date) has been an avid reader of one kind or another. Most of them- my husband included- don't read the kinds of books I read though, and I don't think my husband and I would ever have found each other by matching our libraries. Opposites attract; I read AS Byatt, he reads David Eddings.

All of this lead me to wonder how important is it to have the same interests as your partner. Certainly it's important to me that my husband is an avid reader; I couldn't live with someone who thought I was weird for reading, or who would be irritated by my books, or to whom I couldn't talk about my books. On the other hand, it's never been crucial to me to only date lit fic snobs. I'm not sure I'd even want to date (or marry) someone with identical interests- how boring would that be? I like being married to a science fiction/fantasy nerd because we have more to offer each other. Now because of me, he's read AS Byatt and Iain Banks, and because of him I've read China Mieville and Ursula Le Guin. And he's learned to like my kind of books, and I've learned to like his.

I'm reminded of the movie "The Jane Austen Book Club", an otherwise unremarkable chick flick about a group of suburban women, and one man, engaged in a year-long project to read their way through Austen's novels. An attractive, blonde 40-something woman who loves literary fiction is dating the man in the group, a 30-ish startup millionaire who loves science fiction and fantasy. He tries to convince her to read some scifi; she demurs until he takes her to a bookstore and hand-picks some of his favorites and explains what they have in common with the books she loves. Eventually she gives in and finds that-surprise!- some of "his" books aren't so bad. They might not give each other the time of day on a dating site that "matched" people based on their reading interests alone. I mean, where does that approach leave the girl who likes science fiction nerds but is herself a nerd of the lit fic type?

Has our marriage changed our respective reading habits? No, but I think our differences, along with our shared respect and love for books, has broadened us both a bit. That wouldn't happen if we both read the same things, had the same interests and couldn't teach each other anything new. I know couples with identical interests and it's like they never learn anything- they spend all their time watching the same Trek reruns and reading each other the same kinds of books. They're happy, and that's great, but that's not for me. Granted, it doesn't always work; I'll never see what he sees in Terry Pratchett, and he'll never pick up Alice Munro. But we both love books, even if they're not the same books, and we love each other, and that's enough.