The other day a friend invited me over to his apartment for the first time. As I surveyed the apartment—Christmas lights as everyday decorations, a well-stocked bar, a computer as the focal point of the décor: the essential makings of a man cave—I spotted a bookshelf. When I’d first met him, we’d talked about literature, and I’d been impressed by what he was reading at the time and by his exemplary knowledge of literature. I walked over to the skinny bookshelf, thinking I’d find inspiration for my next read, but instead I discovered a bunch of how-to books related to his profession. It was an interesting insight into who he is.
About a month prior to this, I visited another friend’s apartment for the first time. She’s subletting a furnished place from a guy who had multiple get-your-body-in-shape-without-even-trying books. I’d never met him yet I automatically judged him by the books on his shelf. One book about working out is acceptable to me. Multiple books that make promises of getting a ripped bod without breaking a sweat made me think he’s not only boring but also delusional. I bet he’s the type of guy who orders pepperoni pizza from chains and takes girls to Dave & Busters on dates.
Having snooped around people’s apartments, I’ve noticed that women generally devote more space in their apartments for housing their books. They tend to have kept the books they read in college as well as added new works of fiction, memoir, and photographic cookbooks. Men, more than women, have how-to manuals on their bookshelves. Of course that’s not always the case. The people I know with the most books are men, and they’re men who read fiction, poetry, and criticism. In fact, I know one man who supposedly has a whole apartment just for his books. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but I don’t doubt it. It’s just that these men are fewer and farther between.