Must Love Books?

I’ve been thinking about this particular topic lately. A few internet articles have popped up that has, well, forced me to attack the issue now. While it’s still relevant to about eleven people. Fine.

One article’s from The Guardian: Reading between the lines of your relationship: Do book lovers get a literary leg-up in matters of emotional intelligence, or are the best partners the ones without the library cards? I put the entire subtitle in because I don’t want to explain it, haha. And the other one’s from The Rumpus, and it’s pretty much a reactionary post to The Guardian one–and I love it for its straightforward title: Can You Love a Non-Reader? And then there’s the alternate scenario, an old article by Rachel Donadio from The New York Times called, It’s Not You, It’s Your Books (thanks, Maggie!).

So. With the synoptical (I made up a word, yes) powers vested in me by years of doing book reports for school: How much does your (potential) significant other’s taste in books matter? If it matters at all? Or for a more basic question: should he like reading?

In my case (indulge me): The Boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years. We met in Dumaguete, for a writers’ workshop (I was a fellow for Fiction, he for Poetry). Y’all know what I am–Creative Writing major, Lit minor, book-crazy. The Boyfriend, aside from poem-crafter (woohoo), is a full-time painter, a licensed architect, and can make a shelf from scratch at the same time I race through a good book (is it a man thing?)

The Boyfriend has a lot of books in his apartment. A lot. Art books abound, and children’s books with kick-ass illustrations fall into this category, as well as back issues of art magazines. Architecture-related books too (he’s fond of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Hundertwasser, and some other dude whose name I can’t spell). And there are a handful of poetry books around–he likes Mark Strand, yes, and Billy Collins is a mainstay, some Robert Lowell, some Dylan Thomas, some Robert Frost. I dip into his books, mostly because I like pictures, harhar. However, does he read my kind of books? My Charlotte Brontes and Oscar Wildes, my Lorrie Moores and Raymond Carvers, my Jeffrey Eugenideses and Miranda Julys, my Julia Quinns and Karen Marie Monings? No. He’s not a fiction kind of guy. I’ve tried, for example–we both loved Revolutionary Road (the movie), so I figured, why not let (make) him read the book? He smiled, a little sheepishly. And then he ran, too quickly. Off to the garage, where he tinkered with power tools and whatever it is non-(fiction)reading men do.

Do I wish he read the same books as I did? Sometimes, if only because I get impatient summarizing, contextualizing. But most of the time, well, I don’t mind. Not really. We get along (haha). I like to think we balance each other out, him more visual (his poetry’s a dimension of his art–difficult to explain here, but let’s grab a beer, and we’ll blab), me more, well, wordy. But I can talk to him about the books I read, the same way he can talk to me about Pollock and Schiele and Picasso’s chicks. I can read aloud a passage that struck me as, well, breathtaking, and I know he gets me. Sometimes, he disagrees–and that’s great too. I love our arguments. [Him: “Stop using No at the beginning of every sentence. You argue like a man!” Me: “Well, you whine like a girl!” Harhar.] And one of the best things about this is, our treks to the bookstore are always fun, though we linger in separate sections. Our BookSale hunting’s always great, although whenever I chance upon a great find, I’ll have to emphasize and emphasize what a kick-ass book I got for $35 bucks, haha. [Best thing about a fellow BookSale haunter for a boyfriend: whenever he goes to one and I’m not there, he somehow knows what to surprise me with. He’s come home with Alice Munro, June Spence, and Richard Yates. THAT IS AMAZING, OK?]

I dunno. That’s just me. And him. :] You?

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22 comments

  1. i love a non-reader and we seem to get along fine. there are so many other things besides books, which he has to constantly remind me of … like exercise. :P

    1. Hahaha, I imagine not a lot would get done around here if both us had our noses stuck in a book. :]

      Thanks for dropping by, Aloi! :)

  2. J.S. Peyton · · Reply

    BiblioGuy reads, but nowhere near as much as I do. I’m what he would call a “book purist,” meaning that I prefer reading books to internet reading, and he’s an internet reader all the way. When he does read books, he tends to read nonfiction, academic books, which isn’t usually my cup of tea. Still, we get along just fine.

    I remember reading that NY Times article when it came out and I thought it was incredibly superficial. Are you really going to skip out on a guy because he doesn’t read Pushkin? Prepare to be single for quite some time.

    1. Exactly, I guess I should’ve stressed that although he reads (and sometimes what he reads completely goes through my head, haha), I will always read more than him. Also due to the fact that he’s all carpenter-y and artist-y and archtect-y.

      With that NYT times thing, I do think it’s a little close-minded. I DON’T READ PUSHKIN, haha. But other than my not-so-unbiased thoughts, well, it’s odd that it can be a deal-breaker. If the rest of the guy “works,” does one really have to fixate on him not knowing, say, Hemingway?

      I know my guy doesn’t know a lot of authors, although he’s acquainted with them now bec of the books I keep in his apartment, but I like explaining and contextualizing most of the time, the same way he tries to tell me why a building’s well-built, or a painting lacks a desirable composition. It also gives us more to talk about.

  3. My boyfriend sounds a lot like you’re boyfriend. Engineering major, all of his books are about buildings (also likes Frank Lloyd Wright). And I agree, I think it balances us, although it does annoy me when all I want to do is read and I can tell he wants to watch TV. He takes a great interest in what I’m reading though, kind of like how I take an interest in what blueprint he is making on his computer. My love of books has shaped me, so in some ways he has to love that part of me. Honestly I’ve never dated a guy that read a lot, all of my boyfriends have taken months to finish one book. But I liked ’em all just the same.

    1. My love of books has shaped me, so in some ways he has to love that part of me. The inverse is also true: I educate myself re his interests, but in different media. I mean, yeah, I look at a building and try not to make an odd face, I look at a painting and can say, in 2 seconds, if I like it or not. So I’ve read nonfiction books on his favorite painters, architects. Memoirs, too. And I was talking to him the other day about T.C. Boyle’s new novel, The Women, and it’s about Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life (you might want to check it out, reviews say it’s good).

  4. I don’t think I could really go out with someone who doesn’t reading. Period. In reality, I haven’t found a someone yet, so I really don’t know what to say. haha. Anyway, You’re a Creative Writing major? Where? You know I’ve been looking for schools here that has a Journalism course which is not UP/Admu. D: /I flunked both last year, haha.

    Oh yeah, I’ll give you the list later! I have, like, really old books. If that’s okay with you?

    1. I’m taking CW (genre, Fiction–and a minor in AB Lit) in Ateneo. I’ve technically finished my major+minor, done my thesis and all that, but I’m still in school for the core curriculum. Like PolSci, haha.

      And yeah. If anyone hates reading, or doesn’t read anything, I’m sure na not for me. ;p Especially if he won’t be able to get why I’m so geeky. :]

  5. I dated a guy who was even more of a book lover than me (if that was possible!) and we liked the same genres and we both didn’t read science fiction. It got boring after a while haha. You have spirited arguments about this character but in the end, we were better suited as friends with the same interests.

    1. Jasmeen · · Reply

      I’m with a guy who reads scifi and we get along. Differing tastes can make a relationship work, I think.

    2. @Piper & @Jasmeen: I’m beginning to think that book-lovers loving non-readers (or readers with different tastes) is more of a successful thing, haha.

  6. I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker. Mr. Writer’s Pet reads, but no where near as much as I do. This way, he’s the science guy and I’m the reader. It’s actually kind of nice to each have our own specialty.

    It might be more of a deal-breaker if a guy was also a big reader, but I hated his taste.

    1. It might be more of a deal-breaker if a guy was also a big reader, but I hated his taste. My friends and I were talking about this on Twitter–what if he liked Twilight–or worse, Breaking Dawn? ;p

      1. That’s nigh impossible to imagine with my guy. But you know what, if he came up with an interesting way to defend his taste, I might still let it go.

        However, I’ve heard of people who ONLY read non-fic because it’s more “enriching.” Ugh, I’d rather they read Twilight than be boring and snobby!

        1. I remember The Boyfriend telling me, “I’ve read The Da Vinci Code, and it’s not bad.” I shrieked, Whaaaaaat?

          And he said, “Well, something has to be said about a book that go me to actually finish it. What about the books you scream at, then toss?”

          He so had a point, haha.

  7. toynbeeconvector · · Reply

    Wow, I envy you guys for the relationship success with non-readers. Or at least people who don’t read what we read…I’m not sure though. I think the reader in me wants to curl up with a good book and a good man with whom I might discuss the books I read. So, there is that longing but at the same time, I also want to keep my books to myself because I feel as though it’s a world I can visit that’s uniquely my own. I try to find people who read…I’ve always been curious about dating writers but then again, that’s mostly because of Anais Nin and Henry Miller. I figured the sex must be awesome cause their so into their romance and women become like their art. Ideals aside though, I’d like a man who can appreciate ideas and have a sense of humor.

    He need not read Pushkin but he better have an open mind about it. :) Ramble ramble…

    1. I am technically with a writer, haha–he’s a poet, even though he considers himself more a painter/architect. I guess it’s always nice for the other dude to have an awareness about the arts? :] I don’t think I can date an accountant who only reads manuals.

      And I dated a writer once–writer talaga, no painting, no architecture-ing. We were both too neurotic, haha. Writers are so much drama, hehe. I think one other reason why Pancho and I work is, well, we focus on different genres in our writing (me with Fiction, him poetry). It’s not really a problem nga, haha.

      Ramble ramble… ;]

  8. I like a guy who reads, but he doesn’t have to be as obsessed with books as I am. In fact, I prefer that he isn’t, that he has other interests. While I appreciate intelligent conversation, I need someone to rein in my obsessions.

    I once lent a lot of books to a guy I went out with and when things fizzled out I never got them back, grr!

    1. Aw, crap, the only time that happened to me was when I gave a friend of mine a copy of one of my favorite novels–and then we fought. Boo.

      Also–I think that as long as the other person appreciates or understands your love of books, it won’t pose any kind of problem. :]

  9. I’ve been with women who didn’t like to read and it was alright, but I have to admit I got disappointed when they hardly appreciate the books I adored and gave to them as gifts haha: autographed copies, no less! Anyway, my partner right now is heaven-sent– she loves to read too, and my fondest date memories would involve her reading a book beside my also reading self, completely engrossed in different worlds together. :) le sigh. Thanks, universe!

    1. Yeah, I think it would be “all right”–by why settle for that when you can go, “hell yeah!” I am random, haha, it’s 4 AM. Anyway, yay for you and your girlfriend. I wonder if you have the same taste in books? It’s like sharing shoes, or clothes, haha. Just a thought! :p

  10. Yes, we do, actually. This thought is making me all *gleee* inside. :) So whenever I give her Winterson or Ali Smith books, deep inside I’m thinking I have a gift and a new book to read! Haha :)

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