Men and Books: What Can We Infer from their Recommendations?

For when you want to read between his lines.

Men + Books 2

Whenever I’m in the early stages of dating someone, I ask them for a book recommendation. I give absolutely zero qualifiers, and make every effort to make it through the entire text, no matter how dense/mundane/strange the content. The results through the years have been insightful—I’ve definitely encountered some cautionary tales, but have also discovered some great books (and gentlemen).

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it was time to put my wisdom to good use. I’ve done some reflecting, and created a set of general guidelines as to what you can infer about a man from his recommended reading. Note that this is meant to be taken about as seriously as Beyonce’s recent vegan delivery service. Which is to say very seriously.


Men and Books: What does his Recommendation Mean?**


Any wildly popular, pseudo-intellectual book du jour (All Malcolm Gladwell. Freakonomics. That new book for introverts called Quiet.)


It would be quite easy to dismiss the characters reading these as dilettantes. But I’ve actually found the guys reading their way through the NYT bestseller list to be great people who just happen to have a lot going on . It’s not that they can’t read deeply or intellectually, but rather that they don’t have the time in their busy lives as analysts/traders/jobs that use excel a lot. I give them many props for finding the time to read, period, but as I am not and will never be an analyst/trader/excel connoisseur, I do not have much in common with this group.


The deeply philosophical text (think hard, very hard).


I admire people who read philosophy, but have found that they also tend to admire themselves for reading philosophy. A classic ethos fail, no?


The prototypically masculine tale. (Sparse prose. Whiskey. Minimal discussion of feelings.)


Are you trying to prove your virility by showing me Hemingway? Cormac McCarthy?

Guess what, you’re not the only one. Not at all.


The nonfiction history book.


I’m impressed by men who read history on a regular basis. Lord knows I don’t. The ability to make it through a dialogue of any length on Napoleon’s personal grooming habits reveals the reader to be patient beyond measure, which means he will probably be okay with the two hours it takes me to pick out shoes before going to dinner. A winning quality indeed.


The book that rocked his world that one time when he was 12. (Pottermore? Anyone? Anyone?)


A recommendation of a childhood favorite is all about context. If he’s suggesting Lord of the Rings as one of ten other titles, he is probably a thoughtful human trying to paint a complete picture of himself. If, however, his suggestions continue to feature troll after troll after sword (and publication dates that predate your high school prom), you may need to rethink what’s going on.

Alternately, you might be into this. Many a role-play scenario has begun on a lot less than a shared love of Eragon, The Inheritance Cycle.


The craft book (on cooking, on exercise, on wine).


These are GREAT if you, too, are into cooking/exercise/wine. These are NOT GREAT if you are not. I have been on both sides of the coin, friends, and I advise you do not pretend to care if you don’t.


The slutty novel. (Lolita counts.)


Looking for some meaningless sex? Want to be sure he will absolutely not call? It’s okay if the answer is yes. This is your guy.


The book that is not really a book (cartoon, manga, Reddit page).


If you ask for a book and homeboy throws you a manga cartoon, it may be time to think more deeply about communication.


The thoughtful work of literary fiction.


This is my dream category. Casually mention Steinbeck or Jonathan Safran Foer and I will swoon. Hard. Incidentally, most of the books J recommends fall into this category. Which is just one of many reasons why my love for her is deep and abiding.

**And what about the fellows who don’t read at all? In the eternal words of John Waters, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”

xox E

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