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Lipstick, powder, compact, hairbrush, breath freshener, eau de toilette… the contents of a woman’s handbag are myriad and many. Now, according to a recent study reported in the media, if the woman in question wishes to be attractive to a potential mate, her handbag arsenal needs an essential addition: a book.

Dating app My Bae released a report indicating that those users who put reading-related tags in their profiles are more likely to find a match. Tags relating to books have created more matches than those relating to music, films and TV, and the profiles of users who declared reading as an interest were viewed for longer by potential matches.

The conclusion reached by My Bae, based on the findings, is that ‘the more you read, the more attractive you are to potential partners’. A slight generalisation, perhaps, but one can see the logic to it. My Bae also found that specific books bring people together (for example, a shared love of Game of Thrones), and that the most ‘attractive’ genres in terms of number of matches are psychological thriller, travel and – you guessed it – romance.

Honestly, this report doesn’t surprise me in the least, because when a person identifies themselves as a reader, a book lover, they are saying so much about themselves. They are saying, ‘I am a reader; ergo I am…’

* intelligent

* imaginative

* thoughtful

* focused

* cultured

* interested in the world around

The latter strikes me as particularly important. We all ultimately want to be with someone who is open to the world around them, and readers continually explore relationships and psychology and the big questions of life through stories and educational books.

Much has been written in recent years on the correlation between reading and mental health, to the point that some doctors now prescribe books to improve wellbeing. So it strikes me that reading is also an attractive quality for this reason: it suggests an ability to take time out and recharge, and to look after oneself.

Interestingly, My Bae reports that 64% of women users define themselves as readers, and only 39% of men. Is this a true reflection of readership? I suspect, in fact, some men simply don’t list reading as an interest, for fear that it makes them unattractive.

If that’s the case, perhaps this news will go some way to encouraging openness over reading. The article has sparked a lengthy debate over on Reddit (more than a thousand comments), with young men in particular considering the idea. (The comment ‘Good to know chicks dig books’ says it all.)

What do you think of this report? Do you agree that a love of reading is an attractive quality in a potential partner? Are there any books you’d be put off by? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Earlier this week I blogged about how high heels can infuse a woman with a sense of style and confidence. While researching the book, I was led on a meandering and enthralling course, which culminated in a wonderful new discovery: the Fashion Fairy Tale Memoir series.

Is there any better feeling than discovering a new book – indeed, books in the plural, in this case – that you adore? I am sure I am not alone in feeling thrilled; and also a little bereft that I had not known of the books before now (as good a motivation as any to perpetually be on the lookout for new books!).

The Fashion Fairy Tale Memoir series was launched by the publisher HarperCollins at the start of this decade, and so far it includes three books. Each fairy tale is reimagined by fashion writer Camilla Morton (American Vogue, The Wall Street Journal) and is illustrated by an idol of the fashion world.

The Elves and the Shoemaker is illustrated by one of my all-time favourite shoe designers, Manolo Blahnik.


Fabulous French fashion designer Christian Lacroix takes Sleeping Beauty into stunning new haute couture territory.


Finally, Diane von Fürstenberg, the designer who introduced me and countless other women to the wrap dress, brings to life ‘a grown-up fairytale that teaches women how to feel creative and empowered’ in The Empress’s New Clothes.


I love this idea of matching writer with artiste to create unique and inspirational books. I wonder, with the growth of visual mediums like video, will text-only books soon be rarities? Will all books have a visual element beyond the cover art?

I would love to create illustrated versions of my own novels, especially Masquerade, in which the theme of Surrealism is of paramount importance. I can imagine the palette of vivid colours, and the abstract interpretations of key scenes with the characters, such as the masquerade ball.

What do you think of illustrated fiction? Have you read the Fashion Fairy Tale Memoir, or do you intend to? Do you agree that fairy tales are not merely for children, but adults too, and that beautiful works like these belong on any romantic, art- and fashion-loving individual’s shelf? I would love to hear your thoughts.

I am a keen follower of https://www.ted.com/: the website devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. Recently, the following video, entitled ‘My year reading a book from every country in the world’, caught my eye:

From the description:

Ann Morgan considered herself well read — until she discovered the “massive blindspot” on her bookshelf. Amid a multitude of English and American authors, there were very few books from beyond the English-speaking world. So she set an ambitious goal: to read one book from every country in the world over the course of a year. Now she’s urging other Anglophiles to read translated works so that publishers will work harder to bring foreign literary gems back to their shores.

I am very fortunate to speak several languages, which allows me to read books from a range of countries in their original language. But I do also read translated works. From my armchair in Kent, England, or my patio overlooking the Med in the South of France, I can travel the world and learn about its peoples, and I am certain that doing so makes me not only a better writer but also a better person.

Would you follow Ann’s challenge? What world literatures most interest you? I would love to hear your thoughts.


If you love reading and you want to share your passion with the world, how do you do so? How do you identify yourself as an ardent bibliophile?

Until a few years ago, the answer was most likely to entail words. You showed your love of reading by writing about what you read, either keeping a writing journal online, establishing a book blog or posting reviews with popular book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

These days, however, book lovers are going pictorial; they are expressing their passion for books, and endeavoring to inspire that feeling in others, through images, either static or moving.

The development of the social media side Pinterest helped to spark interest in the visual – not just cover art of books, but books as art themselves. Countless boards have been created devoted to books, beautiful books, and I for one find browsing them wonderfully soothing and inspirational.

Then you have Instagram, which has become so popular with readers that an entire sub-genre has been created by users, named Bookstagram. Readers post pictures of their current reads ‘in situ’ – and that ‘situ’ is often something quirky, fun and beautiful relating to the literary world, or something straight out of the pages of a lifestyle magazine. Prolific ‘bookstagrammers’ can achieve hundreds of likes for a photo snapped of their new read on a gingham tablecloth with a flower, a cake and a cup of coffee, and the most active compete for likes, one-upping each other on prettiness of shot. Those liking the photos are in effect declaring their passion for reading; it’s one big, happy club.

Moving beyond static images – and neatly skipping past GIFs, which are becoming de rigueur in the reading community on platforms like Twitter – we come to YouTube. For the reading community, the BookTubers are in the limelight. These are avid readers who share their passion for reading in general and their latest reads in videos, invariably filmed before a carefully laid-out bookcase that showcases their reading tastes and design skills.

All of these new pictorial angles embraced by readers are creating a new culture, which is not just making those in the reading community sit up and take notice, but also those in the publishing industry.

BookTubing, for example, can be big business; those who are most prominent have large followings and can monetize their videos. And of course publishers are keen to join the revolution. HarperCollins recently launched a dedicated YouTube channel called Book Studio 16 and launched a contest to entice readers to post a ‘shelfie’ – a film of them in front of their bookshelves explaining their love for reading. The top prize is $500 worth of HarperCollins books, and there are five $300 prizes for runners-up (details here: http://harper.hc.com/shelfiecontest).

What do you think of this new language for book lovers: of shelfies and Bookstagram and BookTubing? Do you follow any such bibliophiles, and if so what do you enjoy about their pictorial content? Does it make you want to buy books, buy bookshelves, buy coffee – or, crucially, read more?

The word that springs to my mind is community. Through such sharing, readers are building bonds with each other, and forming an every-growing and ever-stronger community worldwide. No longer need the reader be a lonely individual curled up in a chair in a quiet corner someplace; the reader can be curled up in a chair in a quiet corner someplace and simultaneously belong to a thriving, supportive, inspiring community of like-minded individuals. Booktastic!


‘Learning language from the language of love’: That was the headline that caught my eye in the news recently.

Have you heard about Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) engine, and its new reading material?

Some time ago, Google realised that the conversational skills used in its many products were somewhat lacking: the language was stilted and dull. So the research team decided to feed text into the AI engine in an attempt to teach it to ‘be more conversational, or have a more varied tone, or style, or register’ (source: BuzzFeed).

The Google team decided on a particular type of writing to ‘feed’ the machine: romance novels, some 2,865of them in total. Because romance is based on core stories, the AI can find common ground between the books and match up which sentences have the same essential meaning, thereby learning how to say the same thing in different ways based on the many linguistic examples. The result is a more nuanced comprehension, and the developers say that in testing the AI is now writing better sentences for itself, with more personality.

Setting aside the obvious discussion on AI and whether this engine could now theoretically write its own romance novel, what fascinates me about this story is that the romance genre was selected from all other book genres as the one to educate the AI. What does this say about romance novels?

Of course the core plots come into play, but this is an exercise in teaching the AI to ‘speak’ in a more natural, friendly, lively way; to ‘writer better’. Ergo: romance novels are well-written.

The romance genre is the best-selling one worldwide, and yet it has long suffered from disrespect and even derision from a small group of literary elitists. A news story like this is like a shiny gold trophy for all romance authors and all romance readers. If the language of love is good enough for a futuristic, intelligent, cutting-edge AI, it’s absolutely good enough for we humans!

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