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Literary Mansplaining: The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating a Reader

Amanda Kay Oaks

Staff Writer

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Amanda Kay Oaks has a BFA in Creative Writing and Literature from The University of Evansville and is a current creative nonfiction MFA student at Chatham University. An AmeriCorps alum, online tutor, and literary journal editor, Amanda considers herself a professional wearer of many hats and isn't sure what she'll do if she ever actually has only one job at a time. When she isn't working, reading, writing, or pretending to be a practiced yogi, Amanda can most likely be found snuggled up on the couch with her cat, Artemis, and a plate of cookies. She tweets T.S. Eliot quotes a little too often and tries to keep up with her personal book blog, I Write Things. Twitter: @I_Write_Things

Every so often, an article pops up about how readers get more messages on online dating apps or how readers are better lovers, etc.

Obviously, dating a reader is a great idea for a lot of reasons. Readers often know random interesting facts, and we’re super easy to shop for if things progress to the birthday and holiday gifts point. Plus, getting anyone talking about their passions is a great way to keep conversation flowing on a first date.

But as some of the Book Riot women started sharing stories, we noticed that there are plenty of men out there who just don’t seem to understand how to date a woman who reads. In other words, many of us had stories about dudes on dates being weirdly condescending about books and reading, aka “literary mansplaining.”


So, to help people do bookish dating better, we’ve compiled a helpful list of the DO’s and DON’Ts for dating a reader:

DO: Ask them about what they’re currently reading

DON’T: Tell them why you’d never read that book/genre

DO: Pick someone up in a bookstore by offering to buy whatever book they’re holding (like buying someone a drink in a bar)

DON’T: Buy random hardcovers as gifts to give on the second date, apropos of nothing (this too often involves condescending assumptions about what a near stranger has or hasn’t read)

ALSO, DON’T: Buy them a self-help book about dating/relationships (yep, this happened)

DO: Ask them for recommendations

DON’T: Assume someone who tells you they’re an avid reader hasn’t heard of Franzen

DO: Engage in discussions about books you each liked or disliked and why

DON’T: Tell them why Hemingway really is the greatest and that maybe they just don’t “like academic writing” or “writing you really have to think about”

ALSO, DON’T: Talk about why you “just can’t get into” reading books written by women (or people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, etc)

DO: Plan fun, literary dates like bookstore tours, going to the library, or doing some literary tourism

DON’T: Take your date to the bookstore, then just follow them around and hover awkwardly while they browse

DO: Make thoughtful recommendations based on books they’ve told you they liked

DON’T: Hand them a stack of books written by white dudes that you “really think they need to read” (we’ve heard of them, we promise)

And, finally…

DO: Be a decent human

DON’T: Be a jerk

That’s it! Do you have any stories of weird things that have happened to you after you told your date you’re a reader? Let us know.