We've all done it—brought along that weighty tome we have no intention of opening, let alone reading, and placed it oh-so conspicuously next to our towel. A little leather-bound signifier with which we hope to broadcast the depth of our soul and expanse of our interests to potential mates. But beware the risk of brandishing literature in bad faith—you may not be sending the message you think.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Fred Nietzsche
You want to say: I'm a spiritual wanderer scaling the lonely mountains of truth.
Could be misinterpreted as: I'm a syphilitic hermit prone to sustained bouts of depression. (Especially at risk are those sporting the trendy “porn-stache” and stifled by unusually close relationships with female relatives.)In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
You want to say: I'm worldly and ambitious, unafraid to transcend the American canon to explore the mysteries of involuntary memory.
Could be misinterpreted as: I am completely full of shit. No one outside the rarefied confines of academia has ever finished this 3,000-page bitch. Ever. (Pairs well with: Madelines—because although no one seems to have read the book, everybody knows about the f-ing cookies.)Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Not recommended.
Guilty of the practice to a far lesser extent than their male counterparts, ladies should carefully consider one little gem in particular before including it among their beachfront accessories. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
You want to say: I am a complex and enigmatic soul, my haunting beauty outshone only by my singular genius.
Could be misinterpreted as: I'm one bad date away from turning on the oven. Shall your callous heart be the flint upon which I strike my match?A far better strategy for both the sexes would be to skip the literature and send less ambiguous messages with more plausible, contemporary fare.
For example, anything by Angels & Demons author Dan Brown says: I'm ethereal and inquisitive, but not so much so that my conception of metaphysics can't be adapted for the screen by Ron Howard.
While anything by A Million Little Pieces author James Frey says: I'm gullible and trusting, willing to indulge your fantastical bullshit even if you lie over and over again.
Anything by Tom Clancy says America, fuck yeah and is likely to draw fellow hawks and conservatives, while anything by Ann Coulter says Humanity, fuck you and is likely to draw fellow homophobes and lunatics.
And finally, any edict issued by Oprah's book club says: Yeah, that's it. More. I love it when you tell me what to do. (Note: when submitting completely to Oprah's control, it's recommended that you agree upon a “safe word” should the pain become too much for you to bear.)