07 May 2009

the empty bookshelf and how to make anyone fall in love with you

Confession time: In high school, in search of the greatest manipulative power possible, I read a friend’s copy of a book called “How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You.”

Good news: The principles of the book generally worked. Any high school boy with a full set of teeth and a touch of discipline could SOFTEN his way into any girl’s heart.

Bad news: I now have a daughter.

Lest you think I stopped at romance in my quest to be able to analyze and manipulate humans at a whim, in college I picked up a book appropriately entitled “Reading People”. It was equally enthralling and equally enlightening. The basic point of the book was “PAY ATTENTION!!”

So instead of daydreaming when in a person’s apartment for the first time, I learned to pay attention to little details – decorative flair, ethnic accents, quality of materials, and…wait for it…the books on the shelf.

Ah, the bookshelf. A gold-mine of snap-judgementalism. Back then, a guy rocking sci-fi novels was not likely going to be included in the night’s party plans. A guy with books on sports and history – now there was the guy to go have a beer with...

Well, today, there is no bigger evangelist for the Amazon Kindle than me. And yet there is no bigger killer of snap-judgementalism than the Kindle.

I love the e-reader. I love the paperless society. I love the barren bookshelves…

Or do I?

The New York Times featured a great piece not too long ago about the way that the Kindle masks our public persona and our private image.

Think about it… One guy is reading Chaucer on a plane and another is reading Anne Rice. What can you tell me about them just from that tidbit? With a Kindle, no one would know the difference. One woman is reading the Financial Times and another is reading USA Today. What does that speak to…? The papers are both available on the Kindle every day. And the Kindle gives away no clues.

Check back later today for the article and links…

FYI: SOFTEN = Smile, Open Body Position, Forward Lean, Touch, Eye Contact, Nod


  1. forget their bookshelves...just google their name or check their status on facebook occasionally...that should tell you plenty!


  2. Oops, I have 2001 A Space Odyssey sitting next to I Am Legend... now does it make me a bigger nerd to say the books were both better than their movies? Either way, i assume there's no beer in my future :) I did however read my Paradise Lost, which may redeem me with it's sheer length and iambic pentameter...

  3. First, saying that a book you read is better than the movie version is a msut. It is practically law. First, you sound smart for reading. And you sound smart for telling everyone what crucial/cool part they left ou tof the film.

    That said, mass market sci-fi is OK. Jurassic Park, for instance, does not count against a man.

    Having Firefly DVDs on the shelf...well, that might hurt - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_(TV_series)


  4. I'm a Lord of the Rings guy. I'm one of the few that read LOTR, before the release of the movies. And I loathe Harry Potter to the highest degree.

  5. I always wonder what people think when they see the shelf in our house of world religion books and their sacred texts. Would you think pluralist?

  6. i would think universalist. ;-)

    i would assume intellectual/academic believer.

    depending on my mood, i would either challenge you two with gutteral spirit topics (that can't be quantified academically) or try to appeal to you through some high-minded dialogue on religion/philosophy.

    is that pandering?