If this were true, it would mean that I'm destined for a life filled with short, unfulfilling relationships with the fairer sex.
Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.
Consider, for instance, the picture at right - that's the first shelf of my (tiny) bookshelf. The authors on that shelf include Ray Bradbury, le Carre, Chuck Palahniuk, Gaiman, Camus, Philip K Dick, Hunter S Thompson, Che Guevara, Ramchandra Guha, Richard Dawkins, Tim Harford, Thomas Friedman, Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, Amartya Sen and a bunch of others. I doubt if most of the women I know (not that I know too many), or even the ones I may come to know in future, would read all or even most of them. And that's not even considering the remaining shelves, other books I've read but do not own, the collection of comics and graphic novels on my comp, or the masses of automotive magazines I end up accumulating. This is not a criticism of the women I know - most of the men I know won't get around to reading all of them either. It's never really mattered to me, really- reading for me has always been more of a personal indulgence, the way other people listen to music or something. In fact, it's even more personal: I don't think I could ever get around to recommending books (except maybe to younger relatives and such-like). A common like or dislike may have reinforced a few relationships, but I don't think it's ever been a standalone factor in the success or failure of any of them. So thinking of books as a way of scoping out women just seems rather strange to me.
Of course back in college I did try to look all intellectual at times by carrying 'angle' books to class. That was partly inspired by watching this senior of mine drape himself on the steps or in the various nooks and corners in and around the main corridor, wearing crumpled clothes and engrossed in whatever he was reading until distracted by his hot girlfriend. I don't think I ever impressed any women, but I did get around to reading some pretty good stuff. Conversely, though, the only time I've had a woman come and talk to me at a pub was also over a book - a copy of 'Pundits from Pakistan' I had with me one day at Toto's. It turned out she knew the author and was trying to gather feedback for him, and further conversation revealed that she knew much of the crowd at Cricinfo, including 'Young George' as she referred to him, but still, that counts. So maybe carrying a book around does help with the women.
I don't think I've ever met a woman who shares similar reading preferences to mine, except for my sister, and the latter only because she was a major influence on my reading choices growing up. Which does put me in a tight spot, if the essayist is to be believed. I'd have to feign an interest in Paulo Coelho, I guess, to get anywhere. Having said that, I would be somewhat apprehensive about meeting someone who actually reads the same stuff that I do. It would kill some of the excitement of reading something new if I knew she had already read it. And I'm sure there would be petty arguments to establish which one is the bigger Wodehouse fan.
Frankly, I'm just happy to have people around me who read, irrespective of what they read and whether they are friends or prospective dates or whatever, and (hopefully) we don't judge each other based on what we're reading. Having said that, if you're a single woman who knows her Rorschach from her Rorschach, drop me a comment. Heck, if you're a woman reading this blog, drop me a comment. It would be a nice change.