Dear Reader, it’s Valentine’s Day.
Love, like ya-like ya, and the promise of sale candy are in the air, alongside desperation in 50 shades of faded peach pastel.
So, let’s get you
Need some tips? Read on, and add your own to #bookstogetyoulaid.
When you take someone home, you display books that mean the most to you, or at least relay the message you most want received. And if you’re the one being taken, a make-it-or-break-it book will always catch your eye, sealing the deal or eliciting that record scratch moment and a sudden need to text someone from the bathroom.
I asked some friends to submit examples of books that put a flutter in their endpapers, get them hot under the covers, and knotted up in their bindings.
Say Please, by Sinclair Sexsmith (ed) ;
Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino;
And either of my books, cuz people seem to think that writers are hot: Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement.
Rapture, by Susan Minot;
Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant, one of my favourite love stories of all time (and a near perfect novel, if you ask me);
The Republic of Love, by Carol Shields;
I might be concerned (depending on my disposition towards said lover) if John Berger’s To The Wedding were prominently displayed. And Darren O’Donnell’ s Your Secrets Sleep With Me might also give me pause.
Best introduction: I wouldn’t be with my husband except for the conjunction of Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin (my shelf) and Refiner’s Fire, by Mark Helprin (his shelf).
Beware: either Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Eat/Pray/Love displayed as evidence of sensitive nature.
Hideous warning: a bookless shelf.
I’d like a sniff of John Berryman somewhere. Mavis Gallant is definitely making me think I should pack a toothbrush. Same goes for William Trevor and W.S. Merwin.
If in seduction mode, I’d have to lay out, no pun intended, Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, Mating, by Norman Rush, and A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter. If that doesn’t work, I was wasting my time in the first place.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Books in every room is a big turn on. There should be a bookshelf in every room. Raymond Carver collected, Mark Anthony Jarman’s Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, Leon Rooke’s Who Do You Love?, James Salter’s Last Night.
Poetry: Don Paterson, hands down. There’s no fear in him.
In the kitchen you should have several cookbooks: at least one about baking, with heavy emphasis on bread-making, because it’s slow and tangible.
Other than that there should be two of: home-cooking French, Italian, or Indian. Cooks are sensualists, so you know it’ll turn out to be a good night.
My requirement would be that the person have precisely the book I want to read and have not done so. So I’d be looking for telepathy.
Also, I really think shagging is a great deal more pragmatic than leaving books around the place. Therefore if that were the goal surely explicit sex guides would be more use. Or that anthology Bad Sex.
If there were none of the above, I could probably be persuaded on the merits of Georges Perec on the kitchen table. My partner had lovely bookshelves it’s true, but his cup of tea was exquisite.
If Saturday, by Ian McEwan, was in the apartment, I would flee on sight.
The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker, full stop;
Essays In Love, by Alain de Botton.
(Nathalie’s boyfriend adds: Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, by Anders Nilsen, “like Love Story, only good.”)
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell;
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
Alicia Louise Merchant
Leaving Infinite Jest lying around would probably get me simultaneously laid and not laid, if that’s possible because I always end up fucking guys who have A Real Thing for David Foster Wallace, but I’m one of those “I knew Wallace for his magazine work” people who has never made it through IJ. It’s a kind of cock-tease that I have it on my shelf—off the shelf, even!—but haven’t made it all the way through. Guys are always like, “I love IJ! It’s my favourite book!” And I’m like, Yeah, I haven’t actually read it, and then they are incredulous and take a look around at all my other books and just can’t believe I haven’t read it.
I’m more of a publisher snob than title snob. If I see any Dalkey Archive, New Directions, or NYRB books, I’m hooked.
I also look for stacks of books throughout the apartment (shows he reads regularly) and at least one book on the nightstand.
These days, I also like to see How Should a Person Be, by Sheila Heti, on someone’s shelf.
The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx, because her prose is sexy and it’s a love story;
Cereus Blooms at Night, by Shani Mootoo, because it’s crazy sensual;
Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, because I’m a sensitive guy;
As for record-scratch titles, I might turn around and walk out if I saw Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey.
Nigellissima, by Nigella Lawson is a total boner maker;
James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, too. (I’m a nerd.)
Oh, and, of course, my book, Meet Grindr.
Jennifer Murtell Barrett
Portable Kisses, by Tess Gallagher. (I have it on good authority that Jennifer’s now husband bought her the book and she was “ensnared.”)
I will not fuck someone who has Ayn Rand anywhere in their apartment;
but, I will definitely fuck someone who has a stack of Ian McEwan lying around.
Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson;
The Captain’s Verses, by Pablo Neruda.
Steph Cilia VanderMeulen
If you have McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, because it’s sexy and a love story and has cowboys, I’d stay the night;
Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, because his superb writing totally excites me;
Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love;
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare;
Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand.
Might help in bed:
The Pornographer’s Poem, by Michael Turner;
My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday;
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda.
The Female Eunuch, by Gloria Steinem;
The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood.
(I read both at age 13, and they informed my sexuality, for better or for worse.)
As for me, Julie Wilson, if the last time you bought a Canadian-authored book was in your first year of university, maybe just hide those in the back.
Beyond that, I’d be disappointed not to see any David Sedaris, contemporary short fiction, and at least one poetry title that isn’t Leonard Cohen. Bonus points for a Karen Solie or a Susan Holbrook, especially if you giggle when I say “tampon.” (Then I’ll know you’ve read Joy Is So Exhausting.)
Dennis Lee’s Body Music, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and Lorna Crozier’s The Book of Marvels will certainly tickle my fancy, while anything by David Foster Wallace will intimidate me, and, while unfortunate, I may be inclined to ask if you’ve really read all his work. . . . . Crickets will hopefully give way to comfortable silence and a quick glimpse of Geist’s Atlas of Canada: Meat Maps and Other Strange Cartographies.
If by this point things haven’t ground to a complete halt, it’s possible you’ll open up about that particularly curious pile of older books—Pride and Prejudice, The Three Little Kittens, The Little Prince, Gems of Womanhood—not the other pile of old and gutted books in which you store your rolling papers.
You have kids books? I might look for kids. That answered, and depending on how much wine/bourbon we’ve had, we might read one aloud in the “Man at the Edge of the Universe Voice”. If sexual tension hasn’t instead given way to braiding each other’s hair, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ should get you to second base.
As for gadgets, an ereader won’t turn me off in the slightest, but should we retire to the boudoir, I’d rather discover a paper book by your bedside.
Finally, will I be impressed if you have a copy of my book? Absolutely—provided it lives in the bathroom, cuddled up to Joe Brainard’s I Remember.
(Quick shout out to my darling girlfriend: Love ya, babe!)
Jokes aside, this Valentine’s Day, and every day to follow, I wish you all the love and lust you can find between the crisply-typeset sheets of a good book . . . in bed.
And, if all else fails, read to him/her. Works every time.
From The Book of Love, by The Magnetic Fields:
“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing but
I . . .
I love it when you read to me and
You . . .
You can read me anything.”