You simply can’t deny the romantic appeal of books. Whether or not you’re an avid reader, a bookstore date provides an insightful bonding experience. But how do you turn an evening of perusing paperbacks into a perfect bookstore date night? Allow us to take you through some of our favorite bookstore date ideas.
Why have a first date in a bookstore?
Reading is hot. (Ever heard the term sapiosexual? It means finding intelligence sexy.) Having a first date in a bookstore can be a casual way to break the ice and skip past the small talk with someone new. Hannah, 32, was taken on a bookstore date by her now husband, which we think is a pretty good sign. She believes that “getting an early window into what someone reads, and is drawn to, gives you a big head start on understanding their inner world, as well as their interest in and ability to take on the views of others.” While drinks or dinner can make for a great date, the setting can often be crowded, with loud music playing, which means less opportunities for deeper conversations. Bookstores, however, provide a quiet and great environment for just that. You’re literally surrounded by great stories, after all.
But don’t feel like you need to be extremely well-read or educated to go on a bookstore date. The key is to choose a bookstore that suits your interests. If you’re not into classic literature, then opt for a more modern bookstore. If you aren’t much of a reader, then seek out a concept shop or art gallery bookstore, where they have more photography or art books instead. The purpose isn’t to sit and read—it’s to casually browse and use the books as conversation starters with your date. “I definitely pretended to have read a lot more and to have known many more authors and poets than was true,” admits Hannah, “but hey, I was out to impress too!” Eventually, though, she calmed down and stopped worrying so much about making a good impression: “It was actually one of the most zen moments of my life—the books, the music, and being in the company of someone so comfortable with being themself was real peace,” she says. “It made me relax and feel like I could really be myself too.” Seriously, you don’t need to be an expert. Just think of all the rom-coms that involve a bookshop scene—they’re popular for a reason.
What are some bookstore date ideas?
As we noted earlier, make sure to choose a bookstore that aligns with your interests. If you’re really into modern fiction, don’t choose an antiquarian bookshop. Pick somewhere that is going to tell your date something about you and what you’re into.
It’s also a good idea to visit the bookstore beforehand if you haven’t been before. That way you can check out the ambience, how busy it gets, noise levels, if there’s a barista or an area to sit and have a coffee…all the important stuff. Hannah’s bookstore date was on a canal boat—which is definitely one to remember! A different experience like this can signal to your date that you're thoughtful and not afraid to try new things. As we always say, stepping out of your comfort zone is an important way to grow and discover things, not only about yourself, but your date as well. For Hannah, trying something new was key: “I’d certainly never been to a bookshop on a date before—previous chronic bad boy problem, not their natural habitat—but as this man is now my husband, I’m very much in favour of bookshop dates!” The more unique the bookshop, the better—who knows what your local area has to offer?
We’d also suggest finding a spot for a drink or something to eat once you’ve toured your chosen bookshop (and picked up a book or two to take home). If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar neighborhood, make sure to look up some places in advance and book a table. If the bookstore date goes well, you can seamlessly continue it elsewhere. If not, you can cancel the reservation or have a friend on standby to draft in instead. Either way, it’s a win win.
If you’re a passionate book collector, then maybe there’s no need to go to the bookstore. Inviting your date over (if you’re comfortable with that) to take a look through your bookshelves could be a really romantic and intimate experience for a bookstore date night at home. Just add candles and a beverage to get the mood going. You’ll have the opportunity to share some of your favorites and see if you have any of theirs in your collection. Of course, we’d recommend leaving this date for later, after you know each other a bit better—it’s always best to have a first date in a public place.
If we’ve convinced you to try out a bookstore date with your next Bumble match, great. Here are some logistical tips to help you along the way:
- Set a time: Once you’ve found the perfect bookstore setting for your date, make sure to choose a time to meet them there. Most bookstores have limited opening hours, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to arrange a bookstore date night unless they have late nights (some do). Check this out beforehand so you don’t turn up and see a closed sign swinging on the door. You’ll also want to get to the store with plenty of time to look around and browse—there’s nothing worse than feeling rushed.
- Check the vibe: Some bookstores are places for reading and quiet reflection. If you and your date want to chat freely, you might disturb the silence. As we said earlier, make sure to do a pre-date visit and check that the bookstore has the right vibe for the kind of first date you want. For this reason, we’d also suggest avoiding libraries.
- Think about before or after: Unless you are a very serious reader or collector, it’s unlikely you’ll spend an entire day in the bookstore with your date. Have something planned either before or after the bookstore, depending on what time you’re meeting. This shows forward thinking, and, as we said before, you can always cancel the reservation if the date doesn’t go to plan. See more date ideas here.
- Don’t pretend: A little white lie could be fine—just look at Hannah’s story—but we wouldn’t advise pretending you’ve read books or know authors when you don’t, though. Honesty is always the best policy. If you aren’t a big reader, that’s more than OK! Plenty of bookstores have shelves for staff recommendations, or sales associates who are ready to help and give advice. Don’t be afraid to use their recs as conversation tools instead, if you feel your own knowledge is lacking.
We hope after reading this you feel inspired to arrange the perfect bookstore date. Remember: You don’t even need to buy any books! It’s all about using the books as the catalyst to get to know each other better. But if you do stumble upon a book you both want to read, great. Maybe you can even take turns reading it aloud? Talk about romantic.