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A Bookish Compatibility Test

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

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Recently, Book Rioteer Rebecca posted some useful tips on how to join bookshelves when you move in with a significant other. Today, I’m here to help you figure out whether you’re compatible at the bookish level in the first place.

Quickly, a few disclaimers about the test. First, it is scientifically foolproof — that is, if you and your partner fail, you should lawyer up and immediately begin divorce proceedings. (And if your sarcasm detector didn’t just go off there, well, then you have bigger problems than a bookishly incompatible mate.) Secondly, no attempt is made to identify bookish compatibility based on subject matter — that’s a whole different ball of worms. If you like romance and your partner likes sci-fi, well, let’s just say there’s no accounting for taste. Thirdly, don’t assume that getting the most points is best — you’ll see what we mean at the end. So answer honestly, and enjoy!

(Note on how to complete this quiz: Keep track of the number of points for each question, total them up at the end, and then read the key to decipher what your point total means.)

1. How do you keep track of important concepts/ideas/passages in books you read?
a) Underline and highlight – 1 point
b) Fold back pages – 1 point
c) Use post-its to mark pages – 4 points
d) Don’t do anything – 2 points

2. When you’re reading hardcovers, what do you do with the dust jacket?

a) Leave it on – 2 points.
b) Take it off, put it back later – 1 point.

3. How many DNFs (did not finishes) did you have in the last 12 months?
a) None – 3 points.
b) 1 to 3 – 3 points.
c) 3 to 7 – 2 points.
d) More than 7 – 1 point.

4. How many books, on average, do you buy per year?

a) None – I’m a library junky – 2 points.
b) 1 to 5 – 2 points.
c) 5 to 15 – 3 points.
d) More than 15 – 4 points.

5.You and book blogs: what’s your status?
a) I run my own – 3 points.
b) I don’t run my own but regularly read others’ – 2 points.
c) I don’t run my own and I don’t regularly read others’ – 1 point.

6. How frequently would you say you visit (and buy something at) a used or indie bookstore?
a) Once a week – 4 points.
b) Once or twice a month – 3 points.
c) Couple times per year – 2 points.
d) Never – 1 point.

7. Do you know who Harold Bloom and Michiko Kakutani are?
a) Yes, I read one or both regularly – 3 points.
b) Yes, but I’m not a regular reader – 2 points.
c) No – 1 point.

8. The average amount of time per day I spend reading is:
a) 5 to 8 hours – 5 points.
b) 3 to 4 hours – 4 points.
c) 1 to 2 hours – 3 points.
d) Less than an hour – 1 point.

9. Are you a member of a book club?
a) Yes – 3 points.
b) No – 1 point.

10. Do you consider listening to books on CD (or mp3) the same as reading?
a) Yes – 1 point.
b) No – 3 points.

Now total up your score. Here’s what it means.

10 – 16 points — You’re a Bookish Amateur. You generally enjoy books but it’s not a central part of your life. If your mate is also a Bookish Amateur, you’re golden. If your mate is any of the other categories, you might have some rough sledding ahead, but it’s not not do-able.

16 – 22 points — You’re Hump-of-the-Bell-Curve Bookish. You read more than the average person, but not as much as the average bookish person. You will mix well with other Hump-of-the-Bell-Curve bookish folk, and also Bookish Amateurs. But don’t get too big for your breeches and try to climb the bookish ladder. It’ll end with heartache and hurt feelings — you might find yourself squarely in the cross-hairs of some withering condescension. (Unless you can find an easy-going Indubitably Bookish mate.)

23 – 29 — You’re Indubitably Bookish. You are the universal bookish mate — you’ll mesh well with those below you, and you have the best chance of meshing with the Bookishly Obsessed, outside of other Bookishly Obsessed. Why? Because you’re easy-going and reasonable. Aren’t you? The Bookishly Obsessed may be too holier-than-thou for you, and the Bookish Amateur or Hump-of-the-Bell-Curve Bookish may not provide you with enough stimulation (mental, that is), but you can roll with the punches and do your own bookish thing.

30 + — You’re Bookishly Obsessed. And not only that, you’re a bookish purist. (You also have a much better-than-average chance of being a book snob, so be careful.) Books are, if not the most important thing in your life, at least top 3. You’ll only fit with other Bookishly Obsessed folk, and, because for you books a matter of life and death, even that may not work. If, say, you are a Howling Fantod (an enormous fan of David Foster Wallace), and your mate enjoys some good ‘ol Joyce Carol Oates, you may have yourself an ongoing conflict on the scale of a mixed political relationship. But, hey, even those work sometimes — look at James Carville and Mary Matalin.

What score did you get? Your mate? Do our compatibility judgements above bear out in real life?

Final disclaimer: As with any compatibility test, the rules are just as often true as the exceptions. Date people who love books, but don’t not date someone only because s/he doesn’t.