We rounded up a collection of the top-selling relationship guides and tried them out. But do they work?
The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists (2005) by Neil Strauss
Much maligned by females, The Game is a memoir of journalist Neil Strauss’ life at a very interesting time: his transition from nerdy dweeb to irresistible Casanova, thanks to the art of the pick-up. In the book, Strauss learns from a guy called Mystery – among a few other dandy doyens – how to make women swoon. He becomes revered for his skill with the fairer sex and passes on his wisdom to a gaggle of wannabes. Though it has been misunderstood as a how-to guide, The Game is actually a fascinating study in the psychology of dating.
Who should read it Great for guys who lack social confidence. Vital for women who want to gain an insight into the connivings of the predatory. Hamish McKenzie (TO Hong Kong)
The Concise Art Of Seduction (2003) by Robert Greene
Describing itself as a ‘masterful synthesis of the legacies of civilisation’s greatest seducers – from Cleopatra to John F Kennedy’, Greene’s book describes the seductive process in the manner of a layman’s textbook. He takes us through his 24 laws of persuasion, devoting one chapter each to aspects such as choosing the right victim, mastering the art of insinuation, poeticising one’s presence and our favourite: using the demonic power of words to sow confusion. Greene addresses men and women, turning something subtle and elusive into an almost mathematical formula.
Who should read it Social pariahs who have PhDs but can’t understand why the smooth-talking charmer in the corner manages to hog all the attention. Rachel Lopez (TO Mumbai)
The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets For Capturing The Heart Of Mr Right (1996) by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
Basically, The Rules embraces all the old-fashioned advice adored by grandmothers. The crux is that if you want a man to notice you, you need to create an aura of mystery, and you need to play hard to get. For authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider the best way to do this is to not be too assertive. Don’t go Dutch, don’t talk to a man first, never call him and, on the first date, make sure you act ‘quiet and reserved’.
Some of their suggestions sound like common sense (i.e, don’t get intimate too quickly), but many more are outdated. Still, it’s the kind of book that inspires feminist theory. Is it pre-feminist, or post-feminist? We’re not sure, but we fear following these rules might reel in the wrong kind of guy – the kind who would rather hear you wax lyrical about his virtues than engage in any kind of meaningful discourse.
Who should read it Women who like to tell men their deepest childhood trauma on first dates. Also, women who don’t mind dating shallow men so long as they’re rich. Daisy Carrington (TO Dubai)
Ex And The City (2007) by Alexandra Heminsley
Self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Dumped’, Alexandra Heminsley, has been kicked to the curb numerous times, and everywhere, including in a graveyard. In her debut book she shares her experiences in letting go all those men and getting right back in the dating game. It’s not a book about how to find ‘The One’, but more a good read that will help you get over the fact that your so-called ‘The One’ doesn’t want you anymore.
Who should read it Best for those (men or women) who are recently single and still caught up in their previous relationship. Unggul Hermanto (TO Jakarta)
Tips For Girls (1983) by Cynthia Hemel
Way ahead of its time, Hemel’s witty, incisive prose on sex/dating/love/life is not just entertaining, but 25 years on very relevant. Not a book to take with you on your commute (you’ll be chortling too loudly), there’s at least one gem on each one of its 205 pages. You will laugh loudly at her dos and don’ts, for example: ‘Men who like pantyhose have been known to strangle innocent old ladies for no reason’ (on lingerie). This is common sense at its best with a good dose of comic relief thrown in to help you till you find true love – or lust, whichever comes first. Key line: ‘Here’s the worst thing of all about a needy person: she (or he) hands over all the power to her (or his) love object without so much as a whimper. It may be true that everyone loves power, but not many want it handed to them on a silver platter.Where’s the fun in that?’
Who should read it All women. Doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are. Charlene Fang (TO Singapore)
The Bachelor Home Companion (1993) by PJ O’Rourke
PJ O’Rourke has several million words of trenchant journalism under his belt and more entries in the Penguin Dictionary Of Humorous Quotations than any living writer, but he reached his peak with The Bachelor Home Companion in 1993. Base One (dinner and show) was surmised sagely for the spendthrift lothario: ‘Never buy your date a dozen oysters in a month that has no pay-check in it.’ Base Two (dessert and a taxi home) was similarly savvy, touching as it did on pre-fondling Dutch courage. ‘A good bachelor drinks his dessert… and sometimes the rest of his meals too.’
Who should read it This is a lad’s guide to dating, writ large, loud and oh-so louche. Angus Fontaine (TO Sydney)