Friday, February 19, 2010


What is your honey’s favorite book? Would you date a guy who didn’t read? What does a favorite book say about a person? How much do you judge based on reading preferences? These thoughts occurred to me after a conversation about unfortunate reading experiences.

I was recounting one very unfortunate summer in college when I was dating a certain young man. He was pre-law, and he suggested I read The Firm. That experience should have convinced me to become an editor, right then and there. I was hard-pressed to not go get a red pen to correct his stilted dialect. I was unhappy. He assured me that a gazillion people can’t be wrong and I should really give another book a chance. I tried The Client. While the writing and dialogue had improved, the premise was even more ludicrous. A ten-year-old kid outsmarts the mob? My ten-year-old brother couldn’t manage ordering a pizza. I threw it across the room and have banned Mr. Grisham from my reading list forevermore.

The following summer, we got back together. One day he stopped by the bookstore to see me and told me he had a book I should read. 9 months of break-up had made me forget the prior summer’s experience. To my misfortune. He said it was the only book that had ever made him cry. I was intrigued. Reader, have you guessed my pending torture? He presented me with The Bridges of Madison County. Ugh. I have never felt so used and dirty after reading a book. I know it’s widely panned, and it’s cheap to pile on, but my biggest problem with the book was its obvious and blatant pandering to the lowest common denominator of the book buying audience. I strongly feel that Mr. Waller did an analysis of the largest potential market, what their fantasy would be, and how to maximize his profits in this endeavor. The only thing I can really say to that is, thank God I didn’t pay for a copy.

Shortly afterward, we broke up again. We did not get back together again. It should have been a sign. Since then I have been more careful. My current biggest dating literary worry is if his favorite book is Catcher in the Rye. I think it shows a bit of arrested development to have that book still ring true and speak to your soul in your 30s. (To be honest, I actually also thought that in my teens when I first attempted – and yes, failed – to read the book and was totally irritated by that spoiled, entitled brat. But every year that goes by, the worry grows.) A guy who doesn’t read I can handle. They always read, even if just a little, when I’m done with them. Thank you Nick Hornby for being the wedge to open the door to reading fun for men.


Alyce said...

I loved this post!

My husband was an English major in college when we started dating, so I didn't worry too much about his reading tastes. :) I'm lucky he wasn't too picky about mine though, because I have definitely grown as a reader in the past decade.

I used to love Grisham, Bridges of Madison County, and all things Nicholas Sparks. *Cringe*

Then I started reading higher quality books and really reading with a critical eye. I can still set aside my critical eye to enjoy a thriller now and then, but am not able to turn a blind eye to the emotional manipulations of the likes of Nicholas Sparks - it's just too heavyhanded.

Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY! I can at least understand a man who reads escapist fiction like Grisham, but BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY?

My husband loves to read, but we have divergent tastes. He goes almost exclusively for Manly Man books -- military history, science, and the kind of real-life adventure books with lines like, "And then, we had to eat the sled dogs."

Carin Siegfried said...

So you can see why I had to break up with him, right? Alyce, I'm glad you've moved on. I love guilty pleasures (have a post about it from last month) but I have my limits. Rose City, has your husband read any Tim Cahill? He's a fantastic writer and they're pretty manly with great titles. I lvoed Pecked To Death by Ducks and Jaguars Ripped my Flesh.

Carin said...

LOL...Bridges of Madison County. I think I might cry from laughter if my husband ever said that he read that book. Wow! I will say that he must have been VERY confident to admit that he read a cheesy girl novel.

My husband has pretty good taste in books I have to say! He's introduced me to some amazing fiction--Ender's Game and A Game of Thrones have changed my reading tastes for good (and for the better). Amazing. I think I will go give my husband a hug and a kiss for having good taste in books now. :P