If you’re part of a couple, and the other half of that couple is a woman, read to her. Here’s why:
-Because she likes it. You’ll need to confirm this with your actual woman, and that’s easy to do: ask her. I posted a question about this on Facebook a while ago, directing it at women. Here are a few of the responses:
“love it!!!!!!!!! it should be a requirement before bed time”
“It is my very favourite thing in the world. Surefire seduction.”
“Nothing would seduce me more!”
“Love it - and I don't really care what it is, what's important is that he wanted to share it with me.”
“Fricken' love it!!!!!”
One guy I know wooed his eventual wife by reading her The Lord of the Rings in its entirety. He did different voices for every character, and came up with melodies for the songs. This took three months. Another friend read to his girlfriend regularly, and a few years into their marriage recorded three CDs of him reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for her to listen to when he’d be on the road. She was, in his words “delighted, surprised and touched.” He’s since recorded Prince Caspian for her, and said whenever he offers to read her to sleep she lights up. Another respondent to my Facebook survey said “The courtship with my husband was hugely dependent on our reading aloud to each other. 8.5 yrs in, and we still try to carve time out to do it.”
-Because the both of you will be able to discuss whatever you’ve read. We all have imperfect memories. Very few people can quote from something they’ve read, or remember it in detail. I’d say part of why The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter books became such phenomena was because masses of people were reading them close enough to each other to be able to talk about them. It’s an unusual experience. It’s enjoyable. It’s good to have references beyond movies and TV shows. Don’t get me wrong, I watch plenty of movies and TV shows, and talk about them a lot. But there are pleasures available from books you can’t get any other way. And it’s nice to be able to share them with someone. Right now I’m reading my girlfriend a novel almost no one I know has even heard of: The Brotherhood of the Grape, by John Fante. I’ve read this five or six times - to myself. It’s been a favourite of mine for a dozen years. Now it’s a shared reference with the two of us - the story, the characters, the author’s style, specific turns of phrase and jokes. And it builds on another book of his I read her: West of Rome. (These are short books, by the way. Less than two hundred pages each.) Some of the same characters. Same style. Our bank of common literary references is growing.
-Because there’s nothing like being taken on the ride of a good story. Many of us have fond memories of being told bedtime stories as kids, and of hearing stories around a campfire. Our species has the same memory. For a long time that was one of the only entertainments we had. Our mythology was delivered orally. The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf - these were spoken epics. Plays predate novels by many centuries. We have an innate affinity for someone telling us a tale. Our technology has enabled us to watch the best actors and listen to the best musicians perform whenever we want - something unimaginable a mere one hundred years ago. But it’s shaped us into a culture of observers. We leave art to the pros. Reading a book, you’re imagining its world - you’re bringing the story to life in your mind. You’re actively participating. Reading out loud to another person, you’re performing the characters and the narrator’s voice. You’re getting the author’s timing across with jokes and passages of description. You’re participating even more. For the benefit of another person. And for the both of you.