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.

21 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I like that my husband and I read different books. We share what we read with each other and then it's like getting two books for the price of one, if you know what I mean! On the other hand, I will admit that I decided I really liked him when I saw my very favorite book on his home bookshelf.

King Rat said...

David Eddings?

I'm not sure who to pity.

Gina Bernal said...

Sometimes it frustrates me that my boyfriend is not a reader, though he gets kudos for trying things I force on him (and not just books I like, but books I think he might like based on his interests). At least I have no competition for bookshelf space.

That said, this dating site would have come in handy about 6 years ago, when I tried Match.com and obsessively weeded out men who listed The Da Vinci Code as their favorite book. And there were a lot.

Zibilee said...

Your relationship sounds a lot like mine. While I love literary and historical fiction, my husband prefers science fiction and fantasy. I wouldn't have it any other way and agree that our differences give us things to talk to each other about. I have read quite a few of his books, and he has read quite a few of mine, so I think it works out just fine. I also can't imagine being in a relationship with someone who doesn't read. It would just be too weird. By the way, Eddings is my husband's favorite author as well!

Amy said...

While I like guys who read, I like them to read anyone and anything, not necessarily what I read. I like the idea of expanding tastes and having different things to talk about.

caite said...

I totally agree that personally I think it is very, very important that you share a love of reading. But the same books...no, that would be asking too much.

Carin S. said...

This is hilarious. Every man I've dated (which is a lot!) now reads more than they did when I met them, with the exception of the one who was also an editorial assistant (he already read a lot). I posted last year about Dealbreakers which for me are always books.

Bookin' It said...

My hubby and I met in a creative writing class in college. At first I thought our shared interest in reading and writing was very important, and I think it bonded us together at first. But as the years went on, he got more involved in his corporate career. He stopped reading Joyce and returned to the books he loved as a kid-Terry Pratchett reigns supreme on his bookshelf. I still write and read constantly; he has no interest in writing anymore, but he's always willing to read and critique my stuff. It is a good thing we share the same taste in music, though. Don't think I could handle it otherwise.

Marie said...

Rhapsody, LOL :-) that would do it!

King Rat- ouch...

Gina, OMG I feel your pain. Dan Brown? eep.

Zibilee- LOL! How funny!

Amy, exactly!

Caite, yes! that would get a little dull imo!

Carin, LOL sounds like you're a good influence!

Bookin' it, yeah. at least you still have the music, LOL. :-)

wisteria said...

What a sweet post. Not being married at the present I am envious of a relationship where a couple both loves books and can learn from each other. I honestly have a hard time dating anyone who doesn't share at least the love of reading...whatever it is.

Andi said...

Excellent post, and what a novel idea (pardon the pun). Chuck is not a reader as I am, but he's not opposed, he has his own stack of reading material, and he's more than happy to talk about the books I read voraciously while he picks through his. We've found plenty of common ground in bookish ways. And we met on Match.com. lol

pinkflipflops said...

my husband is not a book reader but he loves reading articles and will pick up a book if it is teaching him something. however, i have my books and he has his laptop, both of us are happy.

Trisha said...

Great post! The hubby and I are very different when it comes to reading: I do it voraciously, and he reads about one book every other year. Seriously, it's pitiful. But we are very happily married.

Mystica said...

My husband does not read - at all. This doesnt bother me for some strange reason. I would have liked to discuss books with him but then you can't have everything can you?

Suzanne said...

My husband is also a non-reader but I love him anyway :-)

If I were a single girl, though, this site would be interesting.

contemplatrix said...

fun post.

i love that my husband reads, and that he reads different things. i agree with rhapsody in books, it is like getting two books for the price of one.
sean's bookshelves were a both attractive and intimidating when we were dating. now we vie for space and consciously decide to try the others' favorites; though we try to pick the one out of the author's corpus closest to the reader's tastes.

the most important thing for us and having a common interest in reading is that he understands my love of reading well enough to know me and how i function; and when a chore i had meant to do is delayed, he doesn't razz me, but asks me how the book is going. his understanding has been immensely valuable to our daughter's bibliophilic tendencies as well.

now if only our movie interests were a little better aligned...

agoodstoppingpoint said...

I love that scene in the bookstore from The Jane Austen Book Club, when he's talking about how he came to love sci-fi. You can see Maria Bello's character getting absolutely in thrall.

- Christy

Melanie said...

My current boyfriend reads and it is so amazing! I've never dated anyone who read for pleasure, going all the way back to high school. It is just great to be with someone who doesn't mind waiting a half hour to watch a movie because i've really just got to finish a book!

Marg said...

I wonder if they have a site like this for Australia.

Kathleen said...

I always thought that one of my criteria for boyfriend/husband was that they had to read as much as I did. But I have learned that it isn't a deal breaker for me. They need to be intelligent and intellectually curious. Whether they read books, newspapers or magazines makes no real difference to me. My sweetie of 3 years doesn't read book but he pores over the NY Times and is interested in art, music, and tons of other stuff that we have to talk about it. And first and foremost he is always interested in what I am reading and doesn't mind that I obsess over books.

writergal said...

I'll check out the site but I definitely think that opposites attract. I'm just happy to date a guy who reads at all. I've dated a few who don't and I couldn't understand why he'd rather watch yet another repeat of The Simpsons than read for a half hour.