Wanna come back to my place and check out my bookshelf?
June 27, 2007 6:48 AM   Subscribe

What books should I read if I want to impress women? (NOTE: I am NOT looking for books on 'how to pick up chicks')

I'm looking for the kind of book where, if I'm on a date, I can mention that I read it, and the women will say something to the effect of, "Wow, I read that, too, and I loved it!" And then we can talk about how great the book was and why.

It's probably is best to avoid selections that would make it look like I'm trying too hard, such as anything by Jane Austen. (Although I did, in fact, read "Pride and Prejudice," and I did, in fact, enjoy it.)
posted by Elmo Oxygen to Media & Arts (79 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Try Belle du Seigneur from French author Albert Cohen. I don't know if there is any English translation, though... Not sure if you'll find any non-French women who've read it either, but I'm sure it will be a good food for your thoughts.
posted by V-Turn at 6:52 AM on June 27, 2007

How manipulative do you want to get? Tastes in books vary a lot, some women will like contemporary fiction and think that anything chick-lit is rubbish, others will think that contemporary fiction is too posh and "clever". If you want to pick up a 30-something woman you can pretty much guarantee[1] that she'll have enjoyed Judy Blume in highschool.

Practice saying "Yeah, that reminds me of reading X in highschool, that book really opened my eyes". And you will look like someone who not only reads books that women like, but who has been doing so for ages.

Or, yunno, just read the books you like and don't try to be something you're not.

[1]well much more so than with adult fiction
posted by handee at 6:57 AM on June 27, 2007

It really depends on the woman's taste. Why don't you ask someone what they like when you meet them, then read it if you're interested?
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:58 AM on June 27, 2007

As an expert on impressing women (ha!! my sides ache!!) I would say AVOID any book that is "for women." Yes, it can be a nice conversation starter to say you read... I dunno... Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I loved the movie, by the way), but women like men because they are MEN. I am often described as a "sensitive guy" and I am the furthest thing from the macho type. I enjoy talking about relationships more than sports, and I generally get along with women more easily than men. So my opinion is not from the "typical man" perspective.

Read books that YOU like. You don't have to have read the same book to have a conversation about books. You can ask about what books she has read, and ask what she liked about them. If you do want to have the "impressive commonality" thing, then if your date mentions a book she read, you can always respond with "I have heard that's a good book... maybe I'll look into it!" I think it's more impressive to say "I'll check out your recommendation" than to say "Oh! I read that girly book too!!!" Having read different books than her actually gives you more to talk about; you can share your recommendations with her as well.

Be yourself. Trying to predict what book will impress a woman (and, guess what... "they" are all different!!!!) will result in a lot of wasted time and energy, and is impossible to sustain.
posted by The Deej at 7:01 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

I don't think that you're going to stumble across some incredible book that all women have read, and it will be difficult to awe your date as each woman will have her own tastes and opinions.

For example, I would be thrilled if I happened to be on a date with someone who had read something by Lawrence Raab, Marie Howe, or even some never-goes-out-of-style T. S. Eliot.

But that's because I like poetry a lot.

I'd say read a lot of whatever it is that you like; read fiction if you like fiction (I'd recommend 'Memiors of a Geisha' if you haven't read it), read non-fiction if you like fiction ('Devil in the White City' is great), poetry if you like poetry, etc. Read what you like, and read a lot of it.

Honestly, just the fact that you're reading for pleasure at all will impress most women. (Well, most women who read for pleasure, at least, which I assume you're going for or else the question wouldn't matter.)
posted by plaingurl at 7:01 AM on June 27, 2007

erm. y'know, with 'memoirs' spelled correctly. oops.
posted by plaingurl at 7:02 AM on June 27, 2007

I think it really, really depends on what kind of woman you are trying to meet. Do you want to put all this work into reading books so you strategically work them into conversation? Do you really want to be this person?

Whenever I meet someone who has amazing taste in books, I am quick to remind myself that some really terrible people like really good books-- and some really amazing people have terrible taste in books. It's proved true in my life time and again.

What do you do when you run up against a woman who has really unique tastes, and you say "That reminds me of (book) which I just finished." And she says, "You finished that? I thought it was unbearable and it mystifies me that anyone would read it if they weren't forced at gunpoint."

When you meet a girl you like, ask her to recommend a book to you. Then you're going places!
posted by hermitosis at 7:03 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

How about some of the newer pop-social science books? I've found that books like Freakonomics, Blink, and Stumbling on Happiness have a pretty wide audience.
posted by jourman2 at 7:06 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Read books that YOU like.

Just to clarify - I'm only going to read a given book if it looks like it's something that I will enjoy. However, I figure that if I'm going to read a good book, it might as well be something that helps me meet & relate to the opposite sex.

I'm sure that some people out there will see this as proof that I'm some kind of bad guy or something, but I don't think there's anything wrong with what I'm asking.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2007

Bridget Jones or The Atkins Diet will probably strike a chord with most.
posted by fire&wings at 7:09 AM on June 27, 2007

The Bible. Lots of women love the Bible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 AM on June 27, 2007 [6 favorites]

This is a wierd question. There isn't some female literary subconscience that can be unlocked by reading a few choice works. There are millions of women and thousands of books, and nary a generalization can be made between the two. If you honestly are trying to have an intelligent conversation with a woman about books that she's read, then ask her to recommend her favorite books to you. If you are only looking for a book to read to pretend that you like it so a woman will find you insightful and sensitive, that ruse won't last long.
posted by contessa at 7:13 AM on June 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

This may come as a surprise but women have a huge variety of interests which do not always overlap. If you are dating a woman who will be impressed that you read books then it can still include a wide range of styles. You could gamble with modern feminist authors such as Margaret Atwood or Dorothy Allison but it isn't going to work for every woman.

Be yourself, not who you think some random woman is going to be attracted to. Then find a woman with similar interests.
posted by JJ86 at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2007

Sorry, but there is no magic book that all women like. One of my nearest and dearest only ever loses herself in books over a century old, while another buys the latest chick-lit before it has a chance to settle on the shelf. They are both intelligent, fabulous women and have no shortage of male attention.

Read books that you like. There is nothing more pathetic than someone trying to impress when it is clear that he is trying to do so. Making a real impression is about being genuine and about being engaged in the conversation. Playing these games is pointless and stupid, and will only land you with someone who plays the games as well. And what do you do when you don't have any more games to play?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:19 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

This isn't proof that you're a bad guy, it's proof that you will make a large investment for miniscule return.

Is there some 'type' of woman you've identified that you are interested in? If so, read what they're reading. Otherwise bestsellers and Oprah's book club are probably your best bets. Even with these it's much more likely than not that they won't have read it and you won't get more conversational use from it than one line. Unless you want to go for describing the whole book to them over dinner. Which is perhaps not the suavest course of action.

That all said, I'll toss out a recommendation: One Hundred Years of Solitude.
posted by BigSky at 7:20 AM on June 27, 2007

There are women who will be impressed if you've read Dorothy Parker. There are women who will be impressed if you've read Solzhenitsyn in original Russian form. There are women who will be impressed if you've read Mars & Venus on a Date. There are women who will be impressed that you laugh at the Sunday comics section in the paper. Women, like men, have VERY differing tastes.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:21 AM on June 27, 2007

I wonder if part of what you're asking for is some suggestions for books that are what some might call highbrow chick lit- that is, books that give you some insight into what it means to be female and will show women that you care about literature and ideas *and* are attuned to some of the ins and outs of women's experience of the world. One of many places to start is Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex (see his comment in last weeks NYT Book Review last week here

And what others said. Ask the face across the dinner table what she's read lately that's mesmerized her. Listen. Consider. Question. Respond, possibly by making a connection to your own reading history. Trying to impress her will look like trying to impress her. Trying to find points of connection is different, harder, and much more compelling. And it doesn't mean having to read the same things, just like you don't have to agree on everything and have matching iTunes collections and like the same brand of peanut butter. If she loved Motherless Brooklyn, maybe you're a huge Raymond Chandler fan and you can tell her why. Or you tried to read Fortress of Solitude and loathed it and can tell her why. Or you've never heard of Jonathan Lethem and are intrigued by her description and want to ask her more about the book that she loves so much. You just need to find convergences, the points in the matrix where the two of you intersect.

And always remember that the sexiest thing of all is man who knows how to shut up and listen and take what a woman says seriously, rather than just a point of departure for another self-absorbed soliloquy.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:22 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Godel, Escher Bach, if you're trying to pick up the really smart ones.
posted by notsnot at 7:23 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, okay, alright, whatever. I know, my question is miguided or whatever. It's been said in this thread and doesn't need to be said again.

Could you guys please stick to answering the question?

(And thanks to everyone who has offered answers. Please, keep them coming!)
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 7:28 AM on June 27, 2007

When I was doing the online-dating thing, one of the questions answered in the profiles was "last great book you read." I wound up reading some really good books based on these.

But there's the thing: these were women whose tastes were already aligned with mine. I'm sure I saw some profiles that mentioned "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" or other such tripe, and passed right over it.

Read widely and you'll have more ideas in your head, and be more interesting to talk to as a result. Finding just the right book to impress a girl—if it were possible—would be like "teaching to the test" in schools. Maybe you'll pass the test, but then what?
posted by adamrice at 7:29 AM on June 27, 2007

fire&wings wrote: Bridget Jones or The Atkins Diet will probably strike a chord with most.

You probably do not want to mention anything about diets, unless you want to strike the wrong chord ;]
posted by gaiamark at 7:34 AM on June 27, 2007

The Cookie Sutra.
posted by Stynxno at 7:37 AM on June 27, 2007

Something that's widely recognized - preferably universally admired - and which provides an opportunity to tell a story from or about the book or draw an analogy with it, the kind of short, sincere monologue that produces that melting smile in women (you've seen it).

Don't be manipulative about it or craft an elaborate (but ultimately insincere) soliloquy, they will notice and if they won't, you've got a dumb broad on your hands and who would want that, now. Scroobius Pip might say you should try to get into their heads, not their pants - but I find that one of these things tends to lead to the other, and that there's nothing wrong with that.

So if you find an opportunity to naturally segue into a short musing on, say, Sabina's war on unoriginality in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" or whatever, sound strong and opinionated, maybe field some questions, have her listen and smile, and still not get a good long kiss out of it, well sorry mate, you fail at wooing ladies with your brain, and you should maybe grow some muscles, get some tattoos, and take up a dangerous hobby instead.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:37 AM on June 27, 2007

Fine then. "Geek Love" By Katharine Dunn
posted by hermitosis at 7:37 AM on June 27, 2007

The Secret.
posted by sanko at 7:39 AM on June 27, 2007

The only book I've read here is Middlesex, and I am a voracious reader. If you tried to pull this trick on me, I'd start quizzing you about the book, and your lack of knowledge will show, TRUST ME.
posted by divabat at 7:40 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: In retrospect, I probably phrased my question incorrectly. A better way to have put it would have been, "Women - what are your favorite books? Men - of the women you have known, what were their favorite books?"
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 7:41 AM on June 27, 2007

Sandman. Transmetropolitan. Fables.

No sense in dating a woman who doesn't like comic books.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:45 AM on June 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I should also mention that some of the best books I've ever read were suggested to me by women who I've dated, or women whom I was interested in dating.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 7:45 AM on June 27, 2007

Things to have and display .:

The Cookie Sutra

2007 Soethby's Catalogs.

Any catalog from a yacht builder.

Travel magazines.

French Laundry Cookbooks or any cookbooks with large beautiful pictures that are easily flipped through.

A couple of books about investing money.

A few Fortune magazines.

A few recent New Yorker magazines.

A few Young Adult books that you loved as a child.

Several books that illustrate that you are interested in one specific topic that someone could consider "interesting" and illuminate part of your personality without making you appear to be a tool. Do you like 5th century Greek Art? Are you a fan of horses? Do you have a thing for Mojave Desert Photography? Do you like dinosaurs? Are you into biblical history?

A few Calvin and Hobbes or Mutts books.

A few "howto" books - how to build a deck, how to sew, etc. Any book that will show that you know how to take care of yourself and don't require a mother.

A few books in languages that you don't know or are translated.

A few books related to your current career as long as your current career isn't "i live at home and am a loser".

Things to hide in your closet .:

- Your comic book collection.
- Your large collection of sci-fi dvds.
- Your collection of Rilke Poetry.
- Your collection of Comic Book Price Guides.
- Your Dalek Model.
- Your massive CD collection - keep that on the computer.
- Explaining why you have Enya next to Minor Threat is something you can save till date #6.

In Conclusion: Your bookshelf should be simple and minimal with a focus on showing off (or lying) about your personal wealth, your ability to take care of yourself, shows that you know how to read, illustrates that you can keep up with current events and culture, and illustrates a specific interest that won't label you as a dork. Your bookshelf should also be in a context of "cool" and "I don't live like I'm in High School or College" anymore. Bury your Green Day poster in the back of your closet.
posted by Stynxno at 7:50 AM on June 27, 2007 [7 favorites]

I'd be thrilled to see Haruki Murakami, Richard Powers, Jonathan Lethem, Lorrie Moore, Michael Ondaatje, George Saunders, and a nice sprinkling of steampunk and comic books. But that's just me, which, of course is the point people above are making.

Mostly, I'd just like to see breadth and depth - that you read widely and also have some specific interests and favorite authors or subjects. They don't have to overlap with mine at all.
posted by judith at 7:51 AM on June 27, 2007

"Bridget Jones" is definitely a good starting point; It captures the way (some) women think very well. A good bookend for it is "High Fidelity," which I consider the male counterpart.

You might also consider reading some Margaret Atwood. Books like "A Handmaid's Tale," a feminist dystopia, are pretty seminal, and good whether you're trying to woo or not. I'd recommend anything by Atwood, but after "The Handmaid's Tale" especially "Oryx and Crake" and "The Blind Assassin."

The portable Dorothy Parker is full of terrific short stories, again from a feminist perspective with a lot of dark humor. I'd pair her with some Charlotte Perkins Gilman -- you'll especially want to read her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," about a young married woman who has been diagnosed with hysteria.

As for books most of us read as young women, try "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery. You should read the first THREE books in the series, as the best stuff happens in the third book. It all takes place in the late 1800s and early 1900s on Prince Edward Island. You can skip over the flowery descriptions of sunsets and such if you like.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess" is also one that many of us remember fondly, not to mention "The Secret Garden."

As for non-fiction essays, I'd look for Gloria Steinem's "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions" and Nora Ephron's "Crazy Salad."

Of course that's only part of my own personal primer, but I think these are all good books that are both enjoyable and good ways of understanding women. You may not impress every woman you meet by saying you've read them, but the understanding you have will be impressive on its own.
posted by brina at 7:51 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think your best bet is relatively recent, bestselling literary fiction - you'll have a good time reading it and there's a decent chance she'll have read it too. Something like Cloud Atlas, which comes up here all the time. If you want a female author, maybe try some Annie Proulx e.g. Close Range: Wyoming Stories which contains Brokeback Mountain. But the thing is to keep your eye open for books which become well known (maybe due to a movie adaptation) but claim literary merit at the same time.
posted by teleskiving at 7:53 AM on June 27, 2007

maybe its just the types of women i tend to hang around/bringhome/date, but they all seem to be reading the childrens/adult fantasy novels, harry potter, lord of the rings trilogy, maybe lemony snicket type stuff fits in there. most of the women i seem to meet love the potter books in particular.

but otherwise, dude, go for things more classical or masculine if youre really trying to impress women. i would think most women would find it a turnoff if you had the whole damn oprah's book club on your shelves. yeah maybe they read those books, but most people aren't looking for someone who reads the same books as them. they are looking for someone interesting, who is into "similar" things. she wont care *what* youre reading so much as the fact that you do in fact read a lot.

so i say, stick with the masculine stuff - chuck palahniuk, coupland, bukowski, etc. and mix in a bunch of classics, particularly salinger, vonnegut, etc. you'll find a lot of women really like reading the same more masculine books that i'm listing. (by masculine, i generally mean the writers and protagonists are men, obviously a book has no gender)

but the most important thing is to read things you like, as stated before.

i've found a great way to impress a woman with books is to read lots of things she wouldnt read, and let her borrow those books that are the best. she'll find herself doing something she wouldnt normally do and you will stand out for that.
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:56 AM on June 27, 2007

Arm-chair architecture, economics, history, cognitive science/linguistics, biology/physics are pretty easy to work into conversation in an impressive way. That and history of your city can be nice.

Beyond that, I'd read the best of genres. Most people have a weakness, and there's usually at least one really awesome sci-fi, mystery. Find a poet you like if you can.

Dostovesky, Virgina Woolf (you don't have to admit to reading it, but room of one's own is worth picking up), Wordsworth, Rossetti, Ayn Rand are classics I really liked.

Recommending a good book is almost more impressive in my mind, though.
posted by ejaned8 at 7:59 AM on June 27, 2007

Oh OK then I'll name some books. How about "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver. It's by a woman, and it will teach you about the history of the Congo at the same time. And "Half a yellow sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which, whilst by a woman and partly from a female perspective, will also teach you about Nigerian history.

There, two new topics of conversation and some interesting literature. She will be impressed.
posted by handee at 7:59 AM on June 27, 2007

The Kite Runner.
The Time Traveler's Wife

Books from Oprah's book club list (as noted above).
posted by inigo2 at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2007

Um, good books?

In general, it seems that women prefer fiction to non-fiction, so if you read recent acclaimed novels, you might find something that you honestly like and would have fun discussing.

I would be more impressed by a guy who talked about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay than a guy who claims to love Virginia Woolf.
posted by emd3737 at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2007

However, I figure that if I'm going to read a good book, it might as well be something that helps me meet & relate to the opposite sex.

Reading books won't help you meet the opposite sex. Going out to where you will encounter members of the opposite sex (including bookstores, book readings, and other literary things) will help you meet them. And I have to say, based on my experience as a voracious reader who remained unhappily celibate all through high school, that reading books isn't exactly a fail-safe way to relate to women, either. (Even in college and grad school, reading books wasn't some major babe-getter either, because it was assumed that everyone was reading books, and someone who could talk about something other than all the damn books everyone had to read was much more attractive than someone who wanted to show off their "blah blah Foucault blah blah Hemingway blah blah theory theory theory" all the time.)

But what I think you are really getting at are not "what books will turn women on?", because the answers to that will be as varied as are women. But rather, "what books should I read to seem well-read, intellectual, and broadly educated with a wide variety of literary interests?" And that becomes an answerable question (at least within the bounds of a specific cultural milieu). One approach is the "traditional" western canon (Homer through Ezra Pound, perhaps); there are "alternative" canons, too, and totally different sets of foundational texts if you are wanting to be grounded in the history of science, say. Alternatively, you could stick to the moderns, reading great works of fiction and/or non-fiction of the past 100, 50, or 20 years. Or you could specialize geographically or topically -- read everything ever written on the history of war, say -- or by genre, focusing on epic poetry or novels in translation, or by reading books that actually teach you how to do things, like repair cars and build houses.

Any of those things, if you are able to speak lucidly and non-maniacally about it, will make you appear well-read and engaged. But you need to foreground your interests and ideas -- there simply isn't some magic list of "books which if men demonstrate having read, women will take off their pants in response."
posted by Forktine at 8:04 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

John Irving.
He cares about women's issues. Some of his books are impressively thick. Plus, once you've read one, you've read them all.
posted by jewzilla at 8:06 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

oops, make that Clay, not Klay.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is also great, and I second The Time Traveler's Wife.
posted by emd3737 at 8:07 AM on June 27, 2007

I think your best bet is to be well-read in general. If you've got a good foundation in classic (and newish classic) literature, you'll impress even the ladies who haven't read the same books as you. As others have pointed out and you seem to understand, you have to have paid attention to these books and have something interesting to say about them. Just being able to say "Yeah, I read that" and then falling into awkward silence is not going to win any girl over.

If you're trying to go really high-brow, check out the St. John's College reading list for serious classics. Similarly, check out the Harvard Classics and the Shelf of Fiction lists.


The Harvard book Store staff's favorite 100 books

The (alleged) 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written

The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels (and also hit the link for 100 Best Nonfiction at the top of the page

The Guardian's 100 greatest novels of all time

For newer novels that are likely to be good quality and relatively widely read, check out what has won awards in the past few years. For instance, I typically pick up the winner of the Man Booker Prize each year.

If you're really just trying to up your chances of having a book in common with a girl, you might as well just read whatever shows up on the New York Times best seller list.

And my personal recommendations, though they're very specific to me: Life of Pi, The Things They Carried, anything by Vonnegut, Dawkins, etc. Even if a guy criticizes my favorite book, he'll get points for knowing it - as long as his argument is intelligent and shows that he actually paid attention.
posted by vytae at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2007 [8 favorites]

Anything by Haruki Murakami
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Poetry by Pable Neruda, ee cummings, William Butler Yeats, etc.
posted by harrumph at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2007

Well, if you're out to impress the opposite sex, statistically you'll have better luck stocking your shelves with romance novels plus some chick lit. (1 in 5 books sold is a romance!)

Check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books -- intelligent, lusty women who love, love, love romance novels. Check out their blogroll.

Try this page -- I just found it (looking for the above stat) and it's fun. Good quotes + academic books on romance.

Some excellent reads that would convert anyone: Jennifer Crusie's "Bet Me", just about anything by , and early, very early Laurell K Hamilton (very early). As insurance, add a couple of academic books on romance to that bookshelf (but only after you've read and enjoyed some romances first hand).

I'd never put any of the flat-out romances or sugary chick lit on a personal ad profile -- they're guilty pleasures. But think about how much easier it is to like and confide in someone when you know you share the same juicy dark tastes.

Even if your partner looks at you askance, you can tease her for being so vanilla when it comes to her reading tastes. You don't have to agree to get into her pants. A really good debate about the merits of different books could get pulses beating furiously.
posted by whitneykitty at 8:25 AM on June 27, 2007

Read the NYTimes book review and check out their bestsellers lists to get an idea of what's current. Amazon has great book lists. Oprah's picks, the NYTimes recommended lists, etc., will let you know what's most popular as well as what's recommended by some interesting people. I'd recommend subscribing to/reading The New Yorker and some other good magazines, possibly Harper's or the Atlantic, to have some good conversation-fodder and book ideas.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2007

Don't forget to try Library Thing.
posted by whitneykitty at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2007

Surprised no one's mentioned it yet but anything by Wally Lamb (specifically "She's Come Undone").

Also, Tom Robbins.
posted by purephase at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2007

Leona Carrington, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes are useful reads if you're trying to get exposure to a type of femine mind that isn't often on display in literature.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:58 AM on June 27, 2007

I tend to just be impressed by guys who read real fiction. The only possible exception would be guys who read exclusively fiction written by men who seem to have severely fucked up views on women; if you told me you only read Kundera, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Heinlein, and/or Updike, I'd probably do at least an internal eye roll. (I like most of those authors, but they severely fucked with my sense of self in middle and high school, and I have no desire to deal with that mindset again as an adult.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:09 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Kundera sucks. Seeing shelves with just Kundera is almost as bad as seeing shelves with just Terry Pratchett.
posted by handee at 9:11 AM on June 27, 2007

It's probably is best to avoid selections that would make it look like I'm trying too hard, such as anything by Jane Austen.

This depresses me.

I was going to suggest Jane Austen. You don't have to try hard when you read her books, and many people -- including women -- love them. When I carry "Sense and Sensibility" around, do people really think, "Jesus Chirst! That guy needs to give it a REST! What is he trying to prove?"

Anyway, I agree with everyone here who says, "read what you like" and "all women have their own unique tastes." But one think that seems to turn a lot of women on is travel. Travel to exotic, romantic places. So I'm sure quite a few would love it if you could talk to them about Paris and India and Peru and Sri Lanka. There are many good travel books.
posted by grumblebee at 9:16 AM on June 27, 2007

Books and authors that have helped me empathize with femininity:

"Justine" by de Sade
Carson McCullers
Marguerite Duras
probably "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Goethe, too.
posted by rhizome at 9:30 AM on June 27, 2007

I am a woman, and I tend to have favorite authors rather than favorite books. I love Barbara Kingsolver and Louise Erdrich.

I've actually linked to this blog post before on AskMe. Julia asks her audience (overwhelmingly female) for book suggestions, and they respond - 177 comments to wade through.
posted by peep at 9:39 AM on June 27, 2007

Don't change your bookshelf as it currently exists at all. Add to it with whatever you're interested in right now. What you've read in the past is the story of where you were, in part, and what you're reading now is a peek into who you are now, and likely where things are going for you.

If you're comfortable with who you are and where you're going, and you want the type of girl who is interested in you for who you really are (and not someone you're pretending to be, but really aren't), you don't really need to make any changes.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to land a girl on false pretenses...then, what Stynxno said.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:46 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Most of the list heretofore rubs me the wrong way, (Bridget Jones? V. Crappy.) so I'll give you my list of authors I'd be keen to hear a fanboy's take on.

Chuck Palahniuk (maybe he squicks out the proper ladies, I dunno, I live for him)
Toni Morrison
John Steinbeck
William Faulkner
William Shakespeare
P.K. Dick
Douglas Adams
J.K. F'ing Rowling

Books my second x chromosome liked better than my first did:
The Crimson Petal and The White (salacious!)
The Mists of Avalon (sacrilegious!)
Wuthering Heights

And a final tip: Bringing something new to the table in an intriguing way is probably preferred to initiating a never ending circle jerk about the same books she's already read. I love a man who's got something I don't.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:57 AM on June 27, 2007

I often read books in coffee shops after I get off work, and sometimes if I'm sitting at a table next to another woman, we'll end up striking up a conversation based on what I'm reading, and that conversation will lead to an exchange of contact information. There isn't really a pattern here--it's happened in the recent past when I was reading Nietzche's Human, All Too Human, Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy, Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic, and Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude--except that genre fiction and graphic novels, even of the indie sort, seem to prevent this from happening. Reading almost all adult SF, fantasy, or horror in public is like wearing a shirt that says "Don't talk to me." (Mostly because of the covers, I think.)

Reading a book that many other people are reading at the same time is the best opportunity for this, actually--I'm rarely in this position, though. I am probably going to miss out on a lot of new friendships with strangers because I won't be reading the new Harry Potter novel in a few weeks.
posted by Prospero at 10:02 AM on June 27, 2007

Yes, I would love to check your bookshelves. And if I did, I would love to see books that I've read and loved. But I'd also like to see some books that I know nothing about, and for you to pull some down and say, "I think you would really like this." To me, there is no fun in exploring bookshelves if I'm not going to find something new that I want to read.

So my advice is simply to read widely. Read old and new books, fiction and non, books about food, books about history, books about pop culture, etc. For every "female classic" there's gonna be people who hate it. You can't win, so dabble in what you like and put a wide range of favorites on your most prominent shelf.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 10:20 AM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

This woman would only be impressed by your reading if you do it because you enjoy it and it pains you not to have a book to read. If I'm on a date with you and you casually mention reading something I've read, it's a good conversation piece, but it won't impress me. If it came out that you didn't like to read, I would be unfavorably impressed.

But that's me. I'm sure thousands of women in this world won't agree at all.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:38 AM on June 27, 2007

I don't think this will work as well as you think it will.

Men who have their own interests and can speak knowledgeably of them: attractive. Even - and sometimes especially - when those interests are arcane and not commonly found among girls.

So although I myself am not very interested in... the current economy of China, a man who was genuinely interested in this and had just finished a book on the issue is WAY MORE APPEALING to me than a dude who's all "Hey, have you read that book "She's Come Undone"? I totally related..."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:43 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Things to hide in your closet .:

- Your comic book collection.
- Your large collection of sci-fi dvds.
- Your collection of Rilke Poetry.
- Your collection of Comic Book Price Guides.
- Your Dalek Model.
- Your massive CD collection - keep that on the computer.
- Explaining why you have Enya next to Minor Threat is something you can save till date #6.

Actually, in my case, bring this stuff out. Even the Green Day poster. Except Daleks, as I don't watch Dr. Who. I have my own massive CD collection, like sci-fi, especially Star Trek, (though I'm reading a Star Wars novel at the moment), and have a long history with comics and comic characters.

I also have a literature degree with a concentration on Federico García Lorca, my favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, and will read anything of interest.

Just be widely read on things that interest you. The rest will come.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2007

Also, personally, I rarely read bestsellers. It's kind of an occupational hazard that I rarely read anything recently published.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:48 AM on June 27, 2007

I'm trying to think of any book that it would 'impress' me to know a guy had read, and I'm falling short. But I would (if I were single and looking) require a man to be well read and able to talk intelligently about books. And of course reading each other's favorites and discussing them is a good way to get to know someone.

But in the interests of contributing something concrete, I'll offer The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.
posted by happyturtle at 10:50 AM on June 27, 2007

Oh, and men who can talk intelligently about history or science are always interesting.
posted by happyturtle at 10:51 AM on June 27, 2007

the only thing that would particularly impress me about a man's reading habits, besides a general impression that he was literate and enjoyed reading about a variety of topics, would be if he read (and seemed to understand or at least think seriously about) feminist nonfiction.
posted by lgyre at 10:59 AM on June 27, 2007

I impressed my girlfriend by having read a bunch of Julio Cortazar and Ray Bradbury. She impressed me with Kobo Abe and Daniel Pinkwater.

My previous girlfriend was impressed by JD Salinger.

It's almost like being well-read helps more than trying to predict which books they're likely to have plowed through (though a basic knowledge of books most often assigned in high school and college seems to help).
posted by klangklangston at 11:26 AM on June 27, 2007

I liked handee's suggestions, but I think that's for a reason that's been mentioned a few times: It's really sexy when a man has his own interests, particularly less common ones. So if you've been reading about Nigerian history, that's absolutely fascinating. I always like mythology, so being able to intelligently discuss the Sandman books is a big plus with me.

And that's all related to what someone was saying about travel books. Being able to intelligently discuss exotic things is very cool. But I'd prefer fiction and history to a travel book any day, since those tend to be more about sight-seeing.
posted by Lady Li at 12:04 PM on June 27, 2007

I don't think you want books that she's already read. This would make you totally boring to her and she'd have no choice but to conclude that you're a big sissy who reads nothing but chic books.

Women are generally impressed by history books, autobiographies, and philosophy books. Autobiographies are key as it demonstrates both a desire for self-improvement and a certain interior depth. Most everybody's impressed by big ideas. Similarly being able to quote the Bible and toss off the occasional scripture does go over well with just about everybody even those women who see religion as primitive. Cervantes, Dumas, and Hugo always go over well, being just the right amount of intellectual, quirky, romantic, and guilty pleasure. Some women dig the almost-creepy I'm-fascinated-by-Sumerian-Virgin-Blood-Sacrifices-in-a-purely-intellectual-way but you have to expose this in a manner that indicates you know it's a bit creepy and immediately launch into deeper discussion of spirituality and mythology. This works well on older women. There's a class of women who are impressed by poetry but people who like poetry are so very boring so avoid. (Though you might mention that Cicero, especially in the original Latin, had a way with words and it's easy to see why women loved him so.) As a last resort, if you really have no shame, you can take the controversial stance that Oprah's Book Club actually does a great job selecting the new classics except for Franzen and his ilk who are all overwrought yuppie bubblegum.
posted by nixerman at 12:31 PM on June 27, 2007

DH Lawrence, anything but Lady Chatterley, and especially The Rainbow, Women in Love, Sons and Lovers.
posted by nax at 1:01 PM on June 27, 2007

My boyfriend impressed me by introducing me to Neal Stephenson.
posted by goo at 1:26 PM on June 27, 2007

I love books and reading and have been the type to be impressed by what a guy has read, BUT, just thinking about a guy trying to read what will impress someone rather than reading something that they are passionate about for some other reason.

That being said, anything by Franz Kafka.

Or, ask said girl to recommend some books she loved, then go read them for future discussion. I absolutely love those conversations.
posted by trishthedish at 1:33 PM on June 27, 2007

If you're just looking for interesting conversation sources, I would point you toward something non-fiction that would illuminate some aspect of your lives.

How about gender studies? Sounds dry and boring, but it's really all about the history and interplay of the sexes and is awfully fascinating.

Or media studies. Isn't it neat that there are already people who have devoted huge chunks of their lives to studying the way television and movies and the appearance of artwork even affects people? Read Marshall McLuhan, or Stuart Ewen, or E. H. Gombrich.

Or you could learn about the mind. Malcolm Gladwell, Erich Harth, Douglas Hofstadter, Oliver Sacks, Carl Jung...
posted by zebra3 at 1:55 PM on June 27, 2007

Well, my most recent ex and I bonded over a mutual love for Jonathan Lethem. And I'm most likely to strike up random conversations with guys who are reading comic books. So books I'd recommend are probably your typical geek lit: Neal Stephensen, Philip K Dick, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Michael Chabon, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. I'd also be pretty stoked to see a guy reading non fiction books with politics I can get behind, see: The AK Press catalogue minus the crappy anarcho-primitive-whatever books.
posted by nerdcore at 2:18 PM on June 27, 2007

I would be very impressed by anyone who had read The Devil Behind the Mirror and was prepared to have a rousing discussion about it and the issues it raises.

I enjoyed the Time Traveller's Wife (my good girlfriend despised it, though). I've heard good things about Middlesex, but I had a hard time getting into it myself.

My partner has always impressed me with his awareness--and engagement--with feminist authors and theorists. I couldn't give an exact recommendation, but it's always interesting when he pops up with an analysis of the patriarchy on something. In general, what impresses me about his reading is not the books, per se, but the way he's able to bring them into conversation with my interests.

Anyway, if you want some non-fiction, you should really give Devil Behind the Mirror a chance. Good luck with the ladies :)
posted by carmen at 8:01 PM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for the suggestions. I'll pick a best answer as soon as I've chosen the next book that I'll be reading.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 9:53 PM on June 27, 2007

bridget jones diary, the girl's guide to shopping, the rules,
oprah magazine, and the nutritional information on lean cuisine light menu pastas.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:41 PM on June 28, 2007

I like a guy who reads David Sedaris and thinks he's funny. Then I know he'll get my sense of humor. If you read David Sedaris and hate it- don't tell me you think it's funny.

Read what you like- that's the best way to go. Whatever you read, you have to like it if you're going to say you like it, not just pretend.
posted by Sabine3283 at 4:36 AM on June 30, 2007

That Cookie Sutra disturbed me more than any book I'd seen in a while.

I'm a chap but what impresses me is articulate passion, especially about things I don't know about. Don't really care about the content so much as the commitment and joy. Jesus. Read what you love, let your excitement for it come through, and give up this fruitless quest for the skeleton key.
posted by waxbanks at 8:44 AM on June 30, 2007

I had to outright laugh at some of the above. In a good sense.
Yes there's a huge variety out there, but be interesting in what you like.
To assit you, I nth the Time Traveller's wife, and Calvin and Hobbs, fundamentals AFAIAC
As to the early Anita Blakes, huh, well all I can say is that the later ones are manuals of polyamourous, kinky, twisted, furry sex, so some women find that a turn off.
Personally interesting things like the Tipping Point or Freakonomics where there's potential to get into a real discussion.
And finally, anything, but anything to do with history (even if it is fiction)
Even telling me you are reading the most boring translation ever of the Code of Hammurabi would flat out do it for me.
See what we mean about difference?

(although furture history also, like the Handmaid's tale by Atwood. That's what good Sci-Fi is to me, this could be our history in the future, shudder!)
posted by Wilder at 2:30 AM on July 4, 2007

Oh, Oh, Oh, and if you can talk to me about Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance" essay (1965) just plain swoon!
posted by Wilder at 6:22 AM on July 4, 2007

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