The Guardian's blog reports a survey suggesting that people may be better disposed to smiling at or talking to people who they see reading a well-respected book. 'Well-respected' in this context apparently means the classics (e.g. Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen, as long it doesn't have a 'now a major TV series' splash on the cover), followed by modern literary fiction like Zadie Smith. Dan Brown and John Grisham are, apparently, the book-snooping equivalent of garlic breath: a turn-off unless the other person has read/eaten them recently too.
According to this account of the YouGov study, 2% of respondents — and 4% of men — had asked a stranger on a date after liking the look of their book, while 6% had asked the readers personal questions.
If you discover people via the sophisticated books they read, can you also discover books via their attractive readers? My instinct is that you can. One no-messing, pragmatic comment on The Guardian's blog puts it, "Anyone who leaves the '3 for 2' stickers on their books is a no-no. But let's face it, if someone's fit you'll give them the benefit of the doubt anyway." So if you were initially wary of the latest Douglas Coupland, but you saw someone you fancied reading it on your regular commute to work, that might give you the nudge you needed to read the book after all.
I've been searching unsuccessfully for the original YouGov survey behind the reports (please let me know if you find it), but my search did uncover details of another of their surveys, with the headline finding that "One in three has bought a book just to look intelligent". With this further combination of snobbery and image management, the plot thickens! What if he/she doesn't really care for Gabriel Garcia Marquez or W.G. Sebald, but is just affecting to read it in the hope of snaring the right the kind of mate?
I can't remember approaching any book readers myself recently, though a couple of instances of people asking me about my books spring to mind. Recently a fellow traveller on the Northern Line was intrigued by my copy of Steven Mithen's The Singing Neanderthals, and I had to summarise the full thesis of the book for him in the one stop between Old Street and Angel (I made it). And last year a bloke from Wapping struck up a longer conversation with me in this Sicilian café about the Borges book I was reading there.
So no dates via books, but I can still remember the favourite music artists my girlfriend listed before our first date three years ago: the Pixies, Tom Waits, the Strokes, Françoise Hardy and Bach.