What books should you read to pick up girls?

July 2, 2012

The Paris Review answers a question about what books you should read to pick up girls. One guy answers it strategically:

“There’s a difference,” remarked one colleague, “between getting a girl to think you’re smart, and getting a girl to WANT to talk to you. The following are books that will make girls want to talk to you.

—Greatest pick-up book of all time is Just Kids by Patti Smith, because every girl has read it and they ALL want to talk about it.
—Any book ever written by Haruki Murakami
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
White Album by Joan Didion
What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Don’t question it. Just trust.)”

And in corroboration, one fellow says: “If it means anything, the only time a girl ever sat down and started talking to me out of nowhere was when I was reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem in college.  Didion has an effect on people.”

They also ask girls on staff what kind of books a bro could be reading that would be hot, so they covered their bases. As I said on Twitter a little while ago, this is perhaps the best illustration ever of the ol’ Hot-Pretentious Scale. Any guy who, for instance, extols the virtues of Finnegan’s Wake is either lying or is to be avoided. But if he looks like Charlie Hunnam, well, you’d forgive it.

Anyway, originally I wrote this up with the tease headline and didn’t answer that vital question. So I cracked this thing back open. How do you pick up the womens?

The thing here is, you can’t be too obvious (Nicholas Sparks), you can’t be too obscure (some of the Paris Review choices, in my honest), and you can’t read too masculine (because otherwise, what stands out, really, if you’re reading Friday Night Lights or Hemingway). The idea is the thing where you stand there and think, “What is that guy doing reading that?” The second-look. So here’s a round-up of a few books that don’t blow to read and–I think–would at least give a lot of girls pause:

  • White Album by Joan Didion — he’s right about this. A lot of girls love Didion, and it’s pause-giving enough.
  • Tender Is the Night — another person in the post suggests picking a lesser novel from a well-known author, not that this is necessarily lesser, just, you know.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo – a classic with a revenge plot of passion (good interiority, good acknowledgment of intellect, without some pretentiousness/sensitivity overload)
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides — for the literary girls
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty — Western, obviously
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude — Love in the Time of Cholera seems too obvious, right? I might think a guy was sort of a cheese ball for that, even if I prefer that book to the other.
  • Wise Blood (or any of the short story collections by Flannery O’Connor)
  • A biography longer than 250 pages, not about an athlete or actor.

To the last bullet, if an objectively hot guy was sitting around reading Truman, smart girls would probably just pass out.

Despite my English degree and hard-ass elitist approach to reading novels, I’ve never read most of the books mentioned in the Review post. I have to say, I’m not exactly hurting to read a lot of them either. But I will gladly holler at strangers who are reading books I’ve read – if I can even see what people are reading.

In the circles of the Paris Review, I guess everybody’s reading gently worn vintage paperbacks purchased at some central used books store owned by an eccentric widower. I’m not. The only thing I’m reading not on my Kindle is the Maraniss biography, because it was given to me for free that way.

Mark Blankenship hit on the side effects of the Kindle last year–the death of the casual book conversation–and Megan McArdle too, talking about the way you could discover a book, at a beach house or on your parent’s shelves and can’t really when it comes to an e-reader. And thus the insularity marches on.

What then, Paris Review? What do you do with the blind approach?

*I’ve read the barest minimum of Didion so that wouldn’t work on me. But Lucky Jim, The Marriage Plot, The Age of Innocence, and Friday Night Lights probably would. What about y’all?

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