Book clubbed

When your shelves give you away.

There are precious few ways to get inside the psyche of a new romantic interest. You won’t meet the parents for months, and a Rorschach inkblot test would be...impolite. How fortunate, then, for bookcases. “It’s the first thing I look at in a girl’s apartment; it tells so much,” says Patrick, 33, a lawyer. “Then again, I’m a huge judgmental snob.” Actually, Pat, you’re just a New Yorker; we all do it. Yes, Bill O’Reilly, we are all effete intellectuals. And we won’t waste time with anyone who isn’t. No meaningful relationship can be had with a woman who owns Brad & Jen: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Golden Couple, so if you see it on display, leave. Otherwise you could end up watching, like, My Super Sweet Sixteen, like, all night.

“Self-help guides are a big turnoff,” says 30-year-old Clara, a graphic designer. “They mean he either has major problems or can’t solve minor ones on his own.” And for Grady, a 36-year-old writer, owning authors in bulk sends a message: “It suggests single-mindedness. For example, if a girl had more than two titles by Ayn Rand, that would give me pause.” That’s wise; she might be collecting seed for a secret ber society.

Religious tomes can also be red flags. “If I see a Bible,” Clara says, “I wonder, Was that a gift at your first communion, or do you read a passage every night?” It’s an important question: Guidelines of certain religions will impact the relationship. “Two weeks into dating someone,” says Darcy, 29, a tutor, “I saw his book on the Baha’i faith, which calls for celibacy. I stayed with him for another three months thinking he’d break, but despite my 'Baha’i-me-up, Baha’i-me-down’ jokes, I never got any.”

It follows that those who analyze the collections of others will curate their own. Darcy confesses to stashing romance novels under her bed, and Susan, a 27-year-old event planner, says she hides The Kama Sutra and The Joy of Sex. “A new guy could get the wrong idea,” she claims. Some secrets must remain so. “A friend of mine once gave me What to Do When You’re Dating a Jew,” Susan explains. “The Jew I was dating never knew.”

Although the discovery of a dog-eared copy of Nicole Richie’s The Truth About Diamonds would sully any evening, the owner should at least get points for reading at all. It’s more alarming to enter a home completely devoid of text. “I dated this Swedish girl who didn’t have a single book,” Patrick says. “I was freaked out until she told me she has a rule about giving them away.” But Emma, 40, a gallery owner, found a true-blue nonreader: “I ignored it at first, because he was fun and the sex was great,” she says. “The breaking point came when he asked me whether Alaska was 'owned’ by the U.S. or Canada.” See, Bill O’Reilly, we aren’t all effete intellectuals.