Hello fellow sapiosexuals one and all. I think we can all agree there’s something attractive about people who carry an easy intelligence with them. The problem is, how can you tell? And even if you can, how do you impress in equal measure?
I’m here to, hopefully, help. We’re launching the UK’s first regular literary speed dating event very soon and, as soon as it was announced, I received a flurry of emails from guys asking what books the young woman about town finds an attractive read.
It seems only fair that, since I’ve given the guys what they asked for, I should do the same for you. Well, that and the fact that a Telegraph columnist professed her own nervousness and asked for guidance after she’d booked her ticket. Gotta keep the press happy.
So here we have it. The Top 5 Books To Impress Him:
5) Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
Often denounced as a bit of a misogynist and, in the past, considered a purveyor of high-brow smut, guys seem eager to profess their feminist concerns at Miller’s treatment of women while discussing the merits of his philosophical ramblings. Now widely considered to be one of the finest writers of his generation, Miller still proves a strong basis for lively discussion.
And let’s be honest, guys are fickle and any conversation that brings up Anais Nin (watch Henry & June if you fancy a screen based précis) is bound to add a certain frisson to events.
4) Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan...But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock – Slavoj Žižek
Apparently, guys love to big up their intellectual capabilities. In a study from 2008, the books men found most attractive to see a woman reading included quite a few heavy philosophical texts.
The thing with Žižek is you really don’t have to read any of his works. No-one knows what he’s talking about yet everyone has an opinion. Sort of. This book strokes your targets ego by bringing up the enfant terrible of contemporary philosophy – probably the only living philosopher he’s heard of – lets you expand the conversation into more accessible areas of ‘popular culture’, and also lets you discuss psychoanalysis without bringing up anyone’s mother.
The perfect book to set off a passionate debate with no prior knowledge required from either of you. You’ll both look really intelligent. Fickle I know.
3) The Children of Men – P. D. James
Ah dystopian fiction. What better way to ignite that spark of romance. Seriously though it’s politics, philosophy, science fiction, theology, social critique…
And you can always reference the film and dazzle with your knowledge of how it differs from the book.
It’s also a good way to weed out the pretend feminists and intellectuals. Does he really assume P. D. James is a man?
2) Persuasion – Jane Austen
This may seem a surprise but guys love to see a classic. Just make sure it’s well-worn otherwise it seems a bit try hard.
I’ve deliberately avoided any of Austen’s works that have appeared on TV recently. Guys love to sneer at ‘popular culture’ while hiding their copies of FHM. Persuasion is particularly good because it’s Austen’s most cynical novel and deeply satirical. It also contains a powerful critique of patriarchy allowing you to draw out the inner feminist in your conversational companion, or dismiss him entirely if he has no idea what you’re talking about.
1) In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
Well written travel books are always impressive. They suggest a bold, engaged awareness of the world. Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’ is the perfect example and is widely credited with the re-emergence of modern travel writing. It’s laconic in style, focussing on out of the way places rather than the well-trodden path. It’s replete with witty anecdotes and, published in 1977, really was the first of its kind.
Everyone takes something different from this book and if your date has had the pleasure of reading it, you certainly won’t be short of conversation. If I saw someone reading this I’d be hard pressed NOT to approach them. If they haven’t, you’ll have enough material to keep you both entertained.
And, fun fact to drop into the mix: Chatwin quit his job at the Sunday Times Magazine by telegram simply stating, “Have gone to Patagonia” before duly doing so.
A quick note on what to avoid from a research study done in 2008:
"Any of those trashy romance, Sex and the City types", declared one man. "Anything with 'shopping', 'heels' or 'chocolate' in the title", said another. "It's a turn-off when girls are too materialistic."
Check out our new series of Literary speed dating events in London here. If you're looking for an innovative way to meet new people in London these are going to be for you.
WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS