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Beach reading

18 August 2003

A good 'silly season' story in London's free Metro newspaper draws on a study done by business psychologists Nicholson McBride with W H Smith to make the far from revolutionary discovery that what you read is the best guide to your personality type. Singletons who are hoping to escape that state should however not be seen on the beach with Bridget Jones's Diary, which gives too strident a message that the reader is someone hunting for romance.

The study identified three key influences that affect people's personality types: stress, confidence and life philosophy. From these, the psychologists identified 18 personality types, each of which is more likely to read certain types of book rather than others. Stephanie Wyman of Nicholson McBride says 'We may not be able to judge a book by its cover but a quick glance will tell you all you need to know about the reader.' We all know how much what you read says about the real you.

So, how much are people's beach-read choices dictated by the image they want to give out to others? Hands up all those taking weighty classics they 'have always meant to read' on holiday - and then finding that actually the latest John Grisham is all you can cope with on a hot beach. We are all influenced by what people are reading and for readers part of what defines a friendship is finding that you enjoy some of the same books. To take it a stage further, perhaps this is the real secret of the success of reading groups: that they are where you will meet like-minded people and form new and enduring friendships based on your reactions to books.

Everyone connected with the book business can only feel grateful that books are currently fashionable, as well as an enduring passion for many lifelong readers. Books get masses of media coverage, authors provide good news stories and it's smart to be seen with a book. So in this year of stagnant sales and collective global anxiety about freak hot weather, blackouts, terrorism and the economy, it's good to know that for many of us going on holiday still provides the chance to settle down with a good book.