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a method of meeting a potential romantic partner by attending an organized event in which a person meets a series of individuals and talks briefly to each of them about a favourite book
'Yes, you can judge a bloke by his cover … this event is not an ordinary speed dating occasion, all beer and bells and braying chat-up lines. This is read dating and after half a glass of wine my companions start to look less like terrifying predators and more like the sort of pleasant, slightly shy types that, well, you'd expect to meet in a library on a quiet Thursday night …
… First, instead of the traditional speed dating questions such as "what do you do?", read daters are asked to write down their favourite book and display its title alongside their name tag.'The Observer 19th March 2006
There's still no 'significant other' in your life, but the problem is that your lifestyle isn't conducive to meeting new people. Your ideal 'evening out' is in fact an 'evening in', curled up in an armchair in front of the fire, reading a good book … If you fit this description, but still have a nagging desire to discover someone special, then help is at hand in the new concept of read dating.
the activity of read dating is essentially speed-dating for bookworms
As you might have guessed, the newly coined activity of read dating is the latest take on the concept of speed-dating, an organized event in which people spend an evening romping through a series of three-minute chats with potential partners. Read dating is essentially speed dating for bookworms, so that instead of familiar conversation starters such as 'Where do you work?' or 'What do you like to do in your spare time?', participants are more likely to discuss their favourite Keats poem or the latest Dan Brown novel. For the read dater, the dilemma is not so much 'What shall I say?' but 'Which book do I pick?'
Budding soulmates are still only allowed a meagre three minutes to share their literary experiences before moving on to the next person, not a huge amount of time to decide whether they've met a prospective life partner, though they're at least likely to agree about how to while away the hours on a relaxed Sunday evening.
The concept of read dating has been around for about two years, and began in New York where events were held in libraries and college bars. The idea quickly spread across to the UK, with the first read dating fixtures springing up in London libraries in early 2006. As a catchy play on speed-dating, read dating cleverly exploits the repetition of the first vowel sound (i.e. the /i/ in speed and read – consider for instance the hypothetical equivalent book dating, which wouldn't have quite the same ring to it!).
Other variations on the concept of speed-dating include stroll dating, a more genteel alternative where a group of potential partners take a weekend ramble through the countryside, and have the opportunity to chat to each other over a period of several hours. Another possibility is silent dating which, bizarre as it may seem, involves no conversation at all. Instead, the participants pass notes to each other!
A related concept for those who enjoy a more intellectual approach to matchmaking is intellidating. A blend of intelligent and dating, intellidating is a highbrow, unhurried approach to romance based on attending lectures, readings and other cultural events.
This article was first published on 11th February 2008.