There's a lot of red tape to cut through before completely committing to a relationship: There's the ex talk, the meeting of the parents, and if you're a literature nerd there's the unavoidable conversation about your respective favorite books.
We hold our breath and hope for Woolf or Wharton or Waugh--anything but Rand!--because a person's favorite book is like a family member or a mantra. It's an essential component of their life and can paint a pretty clear picture of their character.
A Jane Austen girl might be lovably fiery, if a bit traditional, and a Christopher Hitchens guy could play devil's advocate over issues both large and trivial (he may also live a double life as a compulsive Internet commenter).
Ryan Britt says in an article for GOOD Magazine's "Dealbreaker" series that a date reading the wrong kind of books, or reading for the wrong reasons, is a deal breaker. In Britt's case, his beaux read solely to seem objectively smart, and never to enjoy the plot or language. He writes:
“What’s your favorite book?” I asked. “I mean, of all time. Any subject. Favorite book. Go.”
Without hesitation, she said: “1984,” then quickly, “by George Orwell.”
I suppose she didn’t want me to confuse it with the Danielle Steele version. I was irritated. 1984? What a drag. Sure, it’s iconic. But the characters are thin, and if you really want to read some Orwell, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" is his better work, and—but I didn’t say any of these things. I could get over this. I could get over 1984 being her favorite book. I could get over all of her ignorant claims about just shooting off a book, an important one. I could maybe even be supportive and helpful in this endeavor. There was just one thing I needed to know.
“When is the last time you read it?” I asked. I was 28 years old. She was 32.
She blinked and said, “I don’t know. High school.”
And just like that, it was over.
Harsh? Capricious? We don't think so. Here are nine other books that merit praise, but if your significant other cites them as numero uno, we'd proceed with caution:
"A Confederacy of Dunces"
Quoted by do-nothings everywhere.
"On the Road"
Spontaneous, maybe, and a helluva romantic, but if you're looking for commitment, your "On the Road" lover will likely be too busy burn, burn, burning and "explod[ing] like spiders across the stars" to, you know, pay rent.
It's probably a red flag if your beaux enjoys LOTR minutiae more than the stories themselves, which are conversely awesome.
Unless, of course, you're into the whole fatal revenge thing.
"The Great Gatsby"
Your Gatsby-loving partner may seem endearingly romantic at first, but the clinginess and the fact that their entire identity was constructed for your benefit may get to you.
"On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense"
Your Nietzsche lover may insist that fidelity is a metaphorical concept that does not correspond to reality.
"A Lover's Discourse"
Madeleine from "The Marriage Plot" learned the consequences of this book the hard way, when longtime boyfriend Leonard said to declare love is to undermine it.
Somebody needs to lighten up.