Judging a Person by Their Cover

There is the old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a person by their books. Or, more accurately, how much can you know a person by the books they read. I remember early on in my relationship with my wife I made a terrible mistake. I dissuaded her from reading the books she said she liked. Now those were books she said her previous boyfriend had led her to but she said she enjoyed them and who was I to judge.

At that time I was fresh off my English degree and a little high on myself. I was a reader of literary fiction and genre fiction, especially genre fiction based on table top gaming, was beneath me. The ironic thing was that I would soon embrace genre fiction completely to escape literary fiction and wash myself clean of my English degree, but that was still Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour.

It took me a long time after that to be okay with any type of genre fiction. Just like it has taken me a long time to accept that it is okay if some people like ketchup on their hot dogs. Sometimes you want to read a book that does nothing but entertain. That serves as the Kraft mac and cheese of the literary world. That is what books based on video games, table top games, and movie universes are, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I judged and judged harshly. It was a mistake I shouldn’t have made, but can we know a person by the books they choose to read? If I were to randomly select five books off my shelf could another person get an accurate understanding of who I am? Could they envision the person whose last five reads were Robert Jordan, Madeline Miller, Octavia Butler, Kristin Hannah, and John le Carre, and would the person they envisioned be anything like me?

These are the things I think about. I didn’t think my wife was the type of person that should be reading books that at the time I called glorified fan fiction. Demeaning two things I shouldn’t have demeaned and most likely making my future wife feel bad. My wife probably should have left me several times over by now, and might still as I am not sure I ever will reach the best version of myself. If you handed your last five reads to someone would they be able to describe you? Your personality, interests, occupation, all the things that make you you? It is a question to ponder and perhaps a theory to test.

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