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What Our Nightstands Say About Our Marriage

Okay, I admit it.
I did it.

I have been reading the Book Bench, the New Yorker’s book blog rather regularly.
But there was one piece that continually caught my eye–The Subconscious Shelf.

Simple enough premise: readers email in a photograph of their book shelf and the bloggers over at the New Yorker ‘analyze’ it for fun.

Seems like a lot less commitment than a tarot card reader in a strip mall, right? And a walk in the park next to couples therapy, dontcha think? So in a fit of brazen, spontaneous craziness, I thought: Why the hell not? I impulsively snapped two pictures of his and hers night stands and mailed that puppy in.
(Woops, Hon. Forgot to ask you…)

I chuckled at my computer. It seemed wonderfully distracting. And creative and even funny for those nutty New Yorker folks over there (these people are having fun, good god, let’s not discourage them!!) I also am not afraid to tell you that a week went by and I had rejection dejection, thinking: “dammit. they are not going to pick me.”

But they did! they did!

And the results are in!
Darn. I guess I have lost all individuality to my marriage. And apparently my identical night stands make me a nerdist conformist. And, yes, the awful truth…my spouse and I are in a terrible symmetry of cohabitation!!! Check it out.

Well, there really isn’t a his and hers book pile. And she’s right, the books do just go back and forth. But truly the most important part: (the New Yorker said it!) a marriage between readers is the happiest of marriage.

Hon? Please don’t worry, we are gonna make it….
And we can cancel that palm reading for Thursday, Sugar.

As they say on their blog:
Want your bookshelves analyzed? E-mail a photo with your name and location to

As they don’t say on their blog:
Don’t be a chicken.


13 Comments Post a comment
  1. carole sinclair #

    uh oh.

    Time to call the marriage counselor!

    My husband is all about history and war…and the closest I get to that is historical fiction (Isabel Allende – she’s sooo yummy!) but when I read that a “marriage between readers is the happiest of marriage” I went directly to the SELF HELP section of the bookstore.

    Thank you BookSnob! I will send you my couples counseling bills.

    March 22, 2010
    • Not sure I can afford those bills!!!Looks like other readers have the same issue, so don’t despair…

      March 23, 2010
  2. This is AWESOME KATY. You guys are disturbingly similar in some ways… whereas me and Sal’s bookshelf if shown side by side would likely solicit a “Here’s my contact information once you’re ready for marriage counseling…” Me? I like fiction. Sometimes good fiction and sometimes BAD fiction (see Shayna’s video confession). Sal? He is constantly reading any of those historical non fiction type jobs. Is it John Adams? Lewis and CLark? Ben Franklin? Who can say? They all run together. Good thing he’s such a babe. 😉

    March 22, 2010
    • Being a babe helps. Sounds like Sal is busy taking America early days by storm. We should find one you would both like: how about the Patti Smith book that’s out : )

      March 23, 2010
  3. That’s awesome, and makes me a little jealous. It has taken 17 years of co-habitation for us to even get close to a “shared reading list” kind of status. We are fundamentally a fiction vs non-fiction couple, but I do long for the day when we can read aloud to each other as an act of intimacy (I picture this for some reason as something we will do as empty-nesters, should we be lucky enough to survive the current chapter of parenting). Maybe we could start easy with a Tracy Kidder/Jon Krakauer/Dave Eggers kind of thing?
    And hf, by the way… You are nothing if not original, my dear!

    March 22, 2010
    • We both read a lot fiction, definitely. One idea for non fiction start is Michael Lewis. He is such a great story teller, you forget it’s non-fiction. His new book, The Great Short, is getting tons of air time. Check it out.

      March 23, 2010
  4. Hey Bronwyn – I hear you sista. I think we are not alone. Fiction widows.

    March 22, 2010
  5. jules #

    i first read this on my iphone and was dying to scrutinize the titles. . . just laughing so hard at the Peter vs Katy symmetry. (Am curious what the jacketless book is, no doubt something naughty…) Katy keeps her books close to the bedside; you’d have to hook your arm around the lamp to get to his. How does he get to those? Someday. . . love that you sugar-honeyed him into this without him knowing. Well done, BookSnob.

    March 22, 2010
    • I finish them and then stack them neatly on his side. So while mine is the hers list, his is the could be his, but some are still hers pile. So don’t give us toooo much credit for symmetry!

      March 23, 2010
  6. Hilarious! Just tweeted this. Love it! Making me rethink some of my posts on what makes for a happy marriage. My hubby and I have quite dift tastes (he leans towards non fiction, I too fiction) but we too frequently swap and recommend. (FYI I’m guessing it was you w/the junot diaz/mcewan pile-am i right?)

    Delia Lloyd

    March 23, 2010
    • No! t=That was ‘his’. But all the titles you cite were passed along to his side…..he passed me the Jonathan Tropper and most recently The Great World Spin.

      March 23, 2010
  7. Alison Biggar #

    I have to wonder what underpaid intern they have analyzing your shelves. Good news on the marriage front, however. Phil’s side runs to occasional foreys into Trollope and giant, unreadable biographies, plus the books we share. Mine always has the Atlantic and Harper’s spilling over at least one novel, generally a modern one recommended by Phil. Or some great non-fiction like the recent “Snakehead.” Check it out.

    And I meant to mention “The Braindead Megaphone,” essays by George Saunders — belly laugh inducing, I guarantee it.

    March 23, 2010
    • Thanks for your post Alison. (Two in one!). Thanks for the suggestion on Snakehead–it has had fantastic reviews. What’s the modern novel he/you are suggesting at the moment???

      March 23, 2010

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