Reading to impress

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?


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I've run out of books. Again.

12 thoughts on “Reading to impress”

  1. I don’t think so. Like you, I believe reading to be germane to life and if someone doesn’t read, then I can’t really be friends with them, let alone date them.

  2. Yeah, I can’t think of anything that would /impress/ me – if I see someone reading a book that’s a favourite of mine, for example, I might be interested in chatting with them about the book, learning what else they like to read, etc. but I wouldn’t be impressed just because someone’s reading a certain book. Intrigued, maybe…

  3. I think there are books someone could read that would impress me. Although enough to bed them (haha how cynical am I assuming that the list is designed to impress ladies into bed)? Not sure…ask me when I’ve got a cocktail in my hand 😛 But the person would have to be reading those very impressive books as part of a wider reading/at least knowledge finding life for me to really want to get to know them.

  4. Speaking as a man, and from personal experience of women approaching me while I was reading it, the answer is “Jane Eyre.” I mean, I agree with all your points about getting to know someone, etc., etc. Still, the answer is “Jane Eyre.”

  5. Charlotte – Yup, pretty much. The chill that runs down my spine if I go to someone’s house and there’s not a bookcase to be seen…
    Reno – Yes, because who doesn’t like sharing their favourite books, or thinking that it’s a shared pleasure?
    Anna – Are you sure you posted this comment on the right blog? That is praise indeed, and I thank you.
    Jodie – I’m sure they’re trying to impress you enough to…erm… no, it’s gone.
    Mr W – I thought that Michael Malone book got you a lot of attention too? But Jane Eyre is a good, solid tip. I assume everyone’s read that, too, of course.

  6. That’s right, Musings, I forgot about the Malone! That book is so powerful, it should be kept in a containment sphere. And I know what you mean about assuming that everyone reads every day. If I hear someone say, “I’m taking a break between books,” I think, “None of the words in that sentence makes sense.”

  7. I would be impressed by a man who reads (and I mean REALLY reads, not just has them lying around to make women believe he reads them — or has read one or two, so he can claim he’s read them) chick lit and women’s magazines. (I was once very impressed by a husband I met who told me he read his wife’s Glamour magazine cover-to-cover. His wife confirmed this was true.) Or if not chick lit, at least lots of books written by women. How often do you hear those of us women who equate reading with breathing complain that they can’t figure men out? Rarely, because we’ve been reading books and magazines written by and for men all our lives. If men did the same, they’d know us so much better.

  8. All your commentators are funny too! lol I love Mr W’s ‘none of the words in that sentence make sense’ about the person taking a break between books. Obviously the person (not Mr W) is NOT a reader.

    That’s a good question, what book could anyone read that would impress me? I think it would impress me if they read to understand the book and could talk about it after – what they liked, and didn’t like, and then like you say, whose their favourite author, books, etc. It’s the whole package that impresses me, not just that they read a book.

  9. Sorry, it’s midnight here – “Whose” should be “who’s”……ugh, I hate spelling errors after i hit the send button! now that would impress me, if the book reader noted the error! lol

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