This is inspired by a little Twitter back and forth with @blackwelloxford, who had posted a link to a Paris Review article about ‘books guys should read to impress girls’. I checked the list, wasn’t impressed and said so. Banter ensued. (BTW, if you are a reader on Twitter, or someone interested in how to use social media to create a community, you are missing out if not following @blackwelloxford).
Anyway, the exchange got me thinking: what book would I be impressed by if I saw a man reading it? I came to the conclusion that no one book will do the trick; anyone can read one book. Even though I know it’s a minority activity, I expect people to read as a default and I’m surprised if I find out that they don’t (What do they do?). I hang out with literary types who, by and large read in the same way that they breathe: non-stop and as a thing essential to living. One book? I can get through your average sized novel over a (leisurely, weekend) breakfast.
So, one book might be indicative that someone does read, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I need to know a whole lot more before I’ll give due consideration to the idea of being impressed. Like, say, what else they’ve read, and what they enthuse about. Authors they love, authors they hate, authors they’ve decided life’s too short for. Guilt reads, holiday reads, in the bath reads, comfort reads. (What) Do they read for information, and what for fun? What’s up next, and how did they choose that? And what’s the book after that, and after that…?
Then there’s the where and how of reading. If you’re in a pub or a cafe, reading a page, looking around, reading a page, distracted again, then it seems like the book’s not the focus. On the other hand, if the coffee has gone cold, or you’re reaching automatically for an empty pint glass, well, then that’s the sort of engagement I recognise. This is not impressive, but it’s common ground.
So I throw this to the floor: is there anything someone could read that would impress you?