Columns > Published on July 12th, 2021

The First Date Book Walkout Question

"You're on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What's the book?" - @ogbrenna.

It’s the question that kicked off a storm of tweets.

The question was solid, but the answers were liquid. Or stupid. Is stupid the opposite of solid? Is liquid the opposite of smart? You know what? The answers were shitty. The answers I saw were stupid, liquid shit.

Here are the worst answers, why they’re the worst, and as a service, I’ve added correct answers, too. If this question ever comes up again, you’ll be ready with better, more interesting answers.

“Anything by Ayn Rand”

Why people give this answer:

People who say an Ayn Rand book is their favorite are probably Libertarians.

Why this is the wrong answer:

Libertarians are usually rich dudes. The kind of people who see streetlights as a commie plot are people who can probably afford some secret eye surgery that lets you see in the dark, rendering streetlights useless.

If you’re on a date with a rich dude, order the steak. Get some wine. Let his droning about eminent domain fade into the background while you take a trip through Flavor Country. When he heads to the bathroom, get a filet to go. If he’s unhappy with your eat & run & eat again tactic, just hit him with a Rand quote: “Freedom (n.): To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”

The correct answer:

Capital by Thomas Picketty

I’m not comparing economic ideologies. I just think the description of an overly-long, thinly veiled metaphorical novel about economics is probably wackier and more entertaining than a description of an overly-long, completely naked description of economics. If I have to be bored by something, I’d rather be bored by the description of an off-the-wall action movie than a documentary, know what I mean?

Get Capital in the Twenty-First Century at Bookshop or Amazon


"Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler

Why people give this answer:

Because they have a fantasy of sticking it to a Nazi.

Why this is the wrong answer:

NOBODY is going to cite this as their favorite book on a first date unless that date is happening at a white power punk rock concert that turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse. So unless your date is happening within the fictional world of the film Green Room, this answer is more about your power fantasies than it is about books.

Maybe there’s someone out there who’s like, “Pete, this happened to me!” And to you, the one person who can say this happened, I have to deliver some bad news: You weren't on a date with a Nazi, you were on a date with someone desperate enough to leave that they brought up Hitler.

The correct answer:

GOOP Clean Beauty by The Editors of Goop

I’m operating under the theory that a shocking declaration of white power won’t come in the form of a book discussion on a first date. HOWEVER, a declaration of white NONSENSE under those circumstances is possible. GOOP is the pinnacle of white nonsense. Take a stand against white nonsense. 

Get GOOP at Bookshop or Amazon


The Bible by...whoever wrote that down?

Why people give this answer:

Because they think they're clever for taking a book discussion and turning it into a religious discussion.

Why this is the wrong answer:

It’s not really about taste in books, it’s about religious beliefs. That’s a fine reason to be incompatible with someone romantically, but why twist an interesting question about books into a boring question about religion? You know how religious people will knock on your door and ask if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ? This answer is the atheist version of that: cramming religion into a discussion that was just fine without it.

The correct answer:

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking aka The Bible of Science

Look, I just don’t believe anyone who says they understand this book. I’m not 100% convinced Stephen Hawking understood this book. And he wrote it. The only way I’d be convinced is if Hawking himself explained the shit to me, and he’s dead, so he’d have to explain either in ghostly form or through a Ouija board, which adds an additional level of skepticism and probably contradicts a good chunk of his work.

Get A Brief History of Time at Bookshop or Amazon 


"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

Why people give this answer:

Because they haven't read enough since high school to come across a book that's actually bad.

Why this is the wrong answer:

I’m putting a new rule on The Catcher in the Rye hate: If you read it for school, and if you graduated more than 5 years ago, find a new book to hate on. If you don't have a new, worse book in your life by the time you're in your 20s, you're not reading enough. Also, if The Catcher in the Rye is the worst book you read in high school, you've got nothing to complain about. 

The correct answer:

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

I think people want to avoid someone who is actually like Holden Caulfield as opposed to someone who enjoys reading about Holden Caulfield. Holden Caulfield expresses love for Out of Africa, so that’s the obvious choice here. Besides, it's a book written in the early 1900's by a white woman in Africa. I...don't see that conversation going well. 

Get Out of Africa at Bookshop or Amazon 


"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James

Why people give this answer:

Because it’s an easy target as a “dumb” book.

Why this is the wrong answer:

I’ve heard from multiple older men that when their wives read this book, things sped up in the bedroom for a bit. You're on a date. Do the math.

The correct answer:

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

People call Fifty Shades "mommy porn," but this is the true, secret sex book for repressed moms. And it’s WAY grosser, like incest-y gross. Which, whatever, but I don’t have time for the artifice of a long-ass book ostensibly about building a church, written in painstaking detail, all just to hide a sex romp. You're on a date with someone who will bang you only once a year on your anniversary, and it'll be weird, man. And not good weird.

Get ​Pillars of the Earth at Bookshop or Amazon 


"Trump: The Art of the Deal" by Donald J. Trump

Why people give this answer:

Because everyone is STILL using Trump as a (lazy, easy-to-reach-for, most obvious) human punchline.

Why this is the wrong answer:

Do you remember that part in Beetlejuice where Delia is renovating the house, and her husband Charles asks her to leave one room in their new home as-is? One room that’s a sanctuary from the influence of modern art?

Delia Deetz: If you don't let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane, and I will take you with me!
Charles Deetz: Yeah, well you know, maybe the house could use a little remodeling. Uh... But, why don't you just leave this room alone, okay?

I'm going to propose a radical experiment: Can we just agree, as a community of readers and book lovers, that we don’t have to bring up Trump in the book world to make cheap jokes? Not because I think he's awesome, because Trump jokes are practically punctuation at this point. Can we rope off this one sector of culture and pretend that he doesn’t exist within it? The government could use a little remodling. Uh... But, why don't we just leave books alone, okay?

The correct answer:

The Heist-est Heist Ever Heisted: A Heist Story of a Heist by Peter Derk

If you're on a date and the person sitting across from you cites this book as their favorite, you're on a date with me. This is a worst-case dating scenario. My advice is that you respond by telling me your favorite book is Mein Kampf. I know it sounds extreme, but getting out of this situation as quickly as possible is the right move.

Get The Heist-est Heist Ever Heisted: A Heist Story of a Heist at Amazon

What's your dealbreaker book? Your REAL dealbreaker. 

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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