Some of you might know that I once did an experiment reading as many pickup books as I can, in order to curate and summarize the best dating advice for men (read: myself).
My brain got fried.
The pickup artist (“PUA”) books repeated some unhealthy patterns:
- Senseless routines and scripts on what to say to women
- Made dating into a performance, focusing on doing versus being
- Reinforcing the idea that men are not enough as they are.
Fortunately, I got introduced to new books that have helped install healthier beliefs about women, relationships and life into my brain.
If you’re a man recovering from the pickup world, here’s an alternative reading list for you:
The Alabaster Girl by Zan Perrion
“Of course I put women on a pedestal. I’m right up there with them.”
Whenever male friends ask about books about relationships, The Alabaster Girl is my absolute first recommendation.
If pickup books have a artificial approach to dating, then the Alabaster Girl is the complete antithesis, embodying Zan Perrion’s natural style of ease and delight.
Some favorite ideas from the book:
- “A man who loves women is loved by women.”
- “I could tell you the truth about me… but to seduce you, I will tell you the truth about you…”
- “The only thing you have to do is die. All the rest is optional.”
- “When faced with two choices in life, two potential paths, always take the one that will give you the best memories”
TAG is written like a poem, full of conversations and stories instead of explicit how-to’s. That is until the conclusion, in which Zan makes a powerful call to men to live with adventure and delight.
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
“The more you seek a woman who gives you everything, the less you get of anything.”
This book introduced the idea of masculine and feminine energies to me, and how everyone has their own mix of the two. This was groundbreaking to me and helped me shift from a binary to spectrum view of gender.
Conversations highlight misunderstandings between masculine and feminine make this book a fun and insightful read:
You might ask her, “Do you want to go to the movies?” She might reply, “Not really.” Then you hug her and spin her around and say, “Let’s go to the movies!” And she says, “OK!” She is not talking about her desire to go to the movies. She is talking about the feeling of your relationship in the present moment.
Despite its masculine-sounding title, Way of the Superior Man contains timeless observations about relationships that is a great read for both men and women.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
Mark Manson has carved out a niche for writing counterintuitive advice about self improvement.
Most men who read pickup books also read a ton a self-help books (guilty). In a way, Subtle Art acts like a meta read about how to approach self improvement:
Conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack . It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you.
The antidote? Know your values and live your values – e.g. things that are worth giving a fuck about.
In reality, what Mark says is nothing groundbreaking. It’s common sense fueled by humor, personal stories and some science. But it’s exactly this commonsense, grown-up approach to self-help that the masses need.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant
This is the shortest read in this list, but may have the most immediate impact.
Remember that I said pickup books often reinforce the idea that the reader is not enough? (E.g. do many tricks to attract others?)
This book hijacks the overly mental process with a simple mantra: “I love myself.”
Just for a day.
From this book, I learned the idea that we are always talking to ourselves. Often times this talk is negative or unproductive…and it makes all the difference to swap everything out with a simple mantra: I love myself.
“What if you don’t believe that you love yourself? Doesn’t matter. Your role is to lay down the pathways, brick upon brick, reinforce the connections between the neurons. The mind already has a strong wiring for love. The body knows it as well. It knows that love nurtures, that love is gentle, that love is accepting. It knows that love heals.”
I have used this so many times to put things into perspective. “Wait, why do I give a fuck about this? I love myself!”
Probably the best bang-for-buck 1 hour read anyone can find.
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss
Any style of relationship is the right one, as long as it’s a decision made by the whole person and not the hole in the person.
Neil Strauss spawned the pickup artist industry with The Game. The Truth couldn’t be more different, as Neil unveils the emotional mess of his life and starts off the book going to therapy. Then he swings to the opposite end of the spectrum and experiments with all things polyamory.
By following his misadventures, the reader is left with a world class education on healthy (and unhealthy) relationships.
“A healthy relationship is when two individuated adults decide to have a relationship and that becomes a third entity. They nurture the relationship and the relationship nurtures them. But they’re not overly dependent or independent: They are interdependent, which means that they take care of the majority of their needs and wants on their own, but when they can’t, they’re not afraid to ask their partner for help… Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.”
Some more highlights from the book:
- Lying is about controlling someone else’s reality, hoping that what they don’t know won’t hurt you.
- “What’s the difference between guilt and shame?” I ask. “Guilt is just about your behavior. Shame is about who you are.”
- Intimacy is sharing your reality with someone else and knowing you’re safe, and them being able to share their reality with you and also be safe.
What have you read that changed your mind about love, dating or relationships? I’d love to know.
Also published on Medium.