Of course, the most important qualities to have in a relationship are mutual love, trust, and consideration. Beyond that, many modern young singles look for a little bit more in a relationship. I've often fallen prey to this myself. Does he read books? Will he go camping? Can we go to sports games together? Is board game play par for the course? What about the ballet; will he survive, or am I destined to only go by myself or with female pals? Will he expect me to watch stupid movies, visit bars, and watch him play endless video games? Due to the internet and expanding social circles, it's not too hard to find someone with compatible values and life goals, so we can afford to be a little more picky.
The NYTimes ran a recent essay discussing whether or not those with different literary tastes can find common ground and forge a relationship. "At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility." You want to make sure a potential spouse actually reads, for starters. Second, I like to know my guys read something more than Maxim and the latest sci-fi or fantasy novel (not that there is anything wrong with sci-fi or fantasy, but those two genres should not comprise the whole of someone's library. Catholic tastes are key).
One one hand, this article resonates strongly with me. I've definitely been turned off by guys who don't read much. As a child, I always had a book in hand. Even now, I read frequently, and I try to mix it up with a combination of fiction, non-fiction, classics, and modern works. Books read is just part of the common lexicon, and it helps generate dinner time conversation. I've been known to intentionally read books a friend or significant other likes in order to both understand that person and give us an avenue for conversation. I definitely see reading as a sign of education, and both knowledge and learning are quite important for me. There is even a super secret "boyfriend test" that relates to a particular story I love (and, no, I shan't share it here. The key part of the boyfriend test is not knowing one is taking the test, and I would prefer that any potential future boyfriends that ever read the archives here not be clued in to the exact test material).
On the other hand, I find the concept odious. After you get beyond the basic "okay, good, he does read books," it seems that the exact reading material isn't quite so important. Sure, I'd love it if the person I date would love to discuss material from Austen to Hemingway to Bryson with me (the latter being a humorous travel writer), but it is definitely not the very most important factor in a relationship. Furthermore, it's possible to find common ground even if both people didn't read the same books before a relationship.
My college relationship definitely revolved around a mutual love of literature, but our tastes were quite divergent (in retrospect, perhaps the author is right and our incompatibilities were a harbinger for greater problems). For example, the guy did not like Robert Frost, but Frost is one of my favorite poets. Then again, we did have several favorite poets in common, including Langston Hughes. Humorously, I can credit Langston with the start of our relationship, as our first conversation concerned his Langston Hughes tattoo. But, for the most part, we didn't read the same books. However, I did read and enjoy quite a number of his favorite novels, including Richard Wright's "Native Son" and several James Baldwin books. Through my relationship, I broadened my knowledge of literature. In fact, I even took a poetry and a creative writing class so that I could learn more about my then-boyfriend's major.
I suppose that things fell apart because there was no mutual return of interest. While I read some of his favorite novels, I'm still not sure how many of my favorite books he read while we were dating. I doubt I left any lasting impression of lesser Steinbeck books on him, and he definitely did not start reading Madeleine L'Engle, another favorite author. Still, it was not our divergent literary tastes themselves that pushed us apart, and it was not a factor at all in our inevitable breakup.
In the end, I suppose I agree with the author's final statement: love can overcome a lack of accord in regards to literary compatibility. But that doesn't mean I still wouldn't prefer someone who eats oranges and speaks about green parrots on Sunday morning or a fine fellow who can appreciate a wall.