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Speed Dating For Book Lovers

February 11, 2012

I saw it on The Strand’s Facebook page. “What book would you bring to a speed dating event at the Strand?”

Well, all right then!

The book was an easy choice for me: The Westing Game. The one book I’ve read more times than any other. Nearly once a year since I was eight.

The event took place in the Strand’s Rare Book room, up on the third floor. Which is a great place to hold events, and even romantic, in a literary and classy sort of way.

There were many more women than men (I gather there’s more female respondents than men in any speed dating scenario) so women sat on one side of a long table, and when the whistle blew, loudly, after about 2 minutes, the men moved on. Each person had a score sheet on which to write the name, nametag number and favorite book of the people they’d spoken to, and a checkbox marked “like.” The theory is that the organizers would sit with the score sheets and match up people who liked each other.

Some impressions:

I really like that it was a book-based, topic specific speed dating scenario. I would do that again, and be more interested in a bookish speed dating scenario than I might do a more general one in a bar. I wrote down tons of book recommendations! And knowing what kinds of books someone likes to read is a helpful way to get to know them- so it might make sense to talk books at a normal speed dating thing.

Some of the books I wrote down:

Should try Aubrey Maturin as audiobooks. (Which I use to get myself to sleep.) I know there are tons of books in the series. So that’ll keep me in books on CD for a good while.

Bone- Fae Myenne Eng

scifi by Ted Chiang, which I gather is about pushing interesting ideas around. I told him he should read Iain M. Banks.

The Man Who Ate Everything- Jeffrey Steingarten. Food writing always wins. The gent who brought it was a food writer, himself. Which won points with me. I think I gravitate toward the more emotional-memoir food writing more than he does, and he prefers straight reporting without the sort of sensual emotional poetry that I really like. Fair enough.

I should try to read David Foster Wallace before I completely dismiss him as Someone Whose Writing I Would Probably Dislike. I am fairly certain I would not like him, based on what friends who do have said.But I should be sure.

I am glad (though unsurprised) that nobody brought or mentioned Anne Rice or Twilight. I’m sorry, but I’ve tried both, and I definitely could not have kept a straight face.

I wonder if anyone brought the Kama Sutra… Or the Cookie Sutra. That would have been hilarious.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of someone who had a book that I think was “Dining with Sherlock Holmes.” Food writing and Sherlock Holmes? MUST learn more!

I talked up The Poets House to the folks I saw who brought poetry. Hooray for poetry! and now I have two more poets to add to the list I need to investigate: Donald Hall and Philip Larkin. I have so many poets whose names I know and poetry I don’t know at all.

I talked with one guy who does neuroscience research- which I think is neat, in a squeamish kind of way. I’d love to learn more.

And then I remind myself, I have just started library science grad school, and I am still trying to keep up with writing book reviews too, so adding to my already legendary TBR pile is not the best idea I have ever had.

Another thing I wish- I wish there had been a better mechanism to get names and info for the women I talked to. Had some great conversations with the woman who only read nonfiction, wanted to chat with the woman a few seats down who loved to read YA… but tried to find some of the women I’d talked to, as things were wrapping up, and couldn’t track them in the crowd. A shame- because I think I’d like to make friends with them, as well as some of the guys I chatted with.

I would also love to see aggregated data on what genre was most popular, and if any one book or author led the pack… and was that gender-specific or across men and women. A few people brought their Kindles and Nooks. Would love to see the data on how many e-readers were brought, versus regular books.

I think the time frame between switching to the next person was about 2 minutes. It felt really fast. And the whistle blew super loudly!  Whistle blows, guy switches seats, and you’re talking to the next person.

So, logistically, it was tough to find a time to write things down. Do you let the other person see you writing? Do you let the person who sits down next see you writing that you liked the last guy? Do you sit it in your lap and write awkwardly? I had a notebook with me, because I always do… and so I felt like I could make it subtler with a “Oh, I’m writing down the book title.” I imagine finding a way to write things down was even tougher for the guys who had to keep moving, and sometimes transition from table to table.

So– I wonder if it’s logistically possible to make sure that the right people and numbers match, with the rushing and writing.  Not sure how to correct for that: Give a little “writing time” in between speed dates?

This morning, I woke up wondering how speed-dating would work if you played Scrabble… 4 minutes a board, so time to make about a move and say hi… and then off you go! Unfair advantage to the girls sit, guys move setup. But intriguing idea.

The event was cosponsored by a wine store that provided champagne, which I don’t like, and Max Brenner, which provided chocolate. I do like chocolate. So I think by the end of the event I was sailing on all the sugar. Which, hopefully, led to “engagingly enthusiastic” not “horrifyingly hyper,” to the last few people I met.

Also, across age groups and gender, “I’m in grad school” gets a sympathetic grin of “yow, you must be stressed,” and “library science grad school” seems to be regarded as universally cool. Always nice to hear. Go, me! Hopefully, my studies will make me employable as well as very cool.

Speaking of, I should possibly get to the library and get some schoolwork done.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 11, 2012 2:09 pm

    Thanks for the interesting feedback, Elizabeth. It was the first time I’ve ever tried to do this. They let in too many people but lucky a lot of people met and said they had fun.
    Susan Shapiro

  2. February 12, 2012 11:22 pm

    That’s an interesting twist to the speed dating scene. Also, I just wanted to comment and add my support for The Westing Game. Such a good book.

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