Reading Books, Reading a Person

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

I’m joining a book club – an online book club – and each person has to pick a book for the other members to read. I have so many favorite books, but I know books can tell you a lot about a person. I went through a similar thought process when I wrote about this for the literary dating event. I’m still deciding what book to choose, but here are some first things that came to mind about what kind of book might say what. (Full disclosure: I’ve read – and mostly liked – all of these books. Also, I’m fully aware these are shallow stereotypes).

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – This person has never really grown up, hates responsibility, and is probably kind of a jerk.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This person probably wanted to pick one of the Harry Potter books, but figured this would be more appropriate, and more “literary.”

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July – This person is likely vegan, carries her things in a tote bag from an indie bookstore or record store, wears vintage clothes, and only sees indie films.

Healthy Child, Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan – This person just had a baby, cloth diapers, recycles everything, and wants everyone else to do the same. Now.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – This person has never lived in the South, but thinks they love everything about it.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – This person wears skinny jeans, carries a Moleskine notebook in his back pocket, and lives in Brooklyn. He prides himself on his self-proclaimed sensitivity.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This person is scary smart, current event savvy, and could slay you in an argument. This is probably their “recreational” reading.

American Pastoral by Phillip Roth. This person is moody and probably uses the hashtag #notallmen quite a lot.

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker. This person may have just discovered Walker’s books (aside from The Color Purple) and probably goes to an all-women’s college.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – Don’t be this person. Just. Don’t.