Judging a Book by Its Cover

I read.  I kind of read a lot.  There’s a lot out there to read.  My nook*?  Makes it even easier to ingest a billion and one books.  I’m not any faster of a reader, but it’s a lot easier to pick up a little reading here and a little reading there if I can just throw 100+ books in my purse all at once.

But there are a gazillion more books out there than I’ll ever be able to read.  So out of all the books in the world, how does one choose what to read?

For me, it’s word of mouth probably more than anything.  If someone tells me they read a really great book, I’ll probably try reading said book.  People tell me about the books they’re reading every so often, because book lovers like to talk about said books, but it’s not like I have recommendations beating down my door.

From there, I typically take those authors and read everything by them I can get my hands on.  I have read all but two books ever published by Tom Robbins (though finding him was a fluke, read on).  I am making a considerable dent in the works of Terry Pratchett, but that man is such a prolific writer, I don’t know that I can read them as fast as he can write them.  You’ll find a lot of Nick Hornby, Douglas Adams, and Bill Bryson in my collection (side note, it is an amazing distinction for Mr. Bryson to grace this list, because he brings as much life to his nonfiction as all the previously listed fiction authors, and I find that’s hard for people to do).

But as much as I love these writers (and others whom I’ve not mentioned), I can’t read the same thing back to back to back.  And eventually (except in the seeming case of Mr. Pratchett) they’re going to run out of books for me to read.  So I need one more tack.

And, yes, it’s judging books by their covers.  Which I’m pretty sure everyone who reads does.  You can’t help it.  The cover is like an advertisement.  You have one second to grab my attention or I’m long gone.  Like anything else we consume, if you don’t already have the clout of coming highly recommended or a proven winner, you really need to sparkle.  But the problem lies in the fact that what catches my eye, may not catch someone else’s.  In fact, it’s pretty much a given that it won’t catch everyone’s.  The trick for publishers is to find that fine line where the cover catches the eye and gives a general vibe as to what the story is about.  And it’s that second part that’s really more important.

For instance, I’ll show you two covers, one that would attract me and one that wouldn’t.  To keep it fair, I’m going to use covers from an author I already know I like, so I’m literally only judging the covers.

In this corner, we have The Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot:

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I can tell by the fact that the cover is colorful and cheeky that it’s going to be a lively and funny book.  It’s fluffy, too, so it’s obviously going to be chick lit, but not like a bodice ripper or anything.

In the other corner, we have Every Boy’s Got One:

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This corner looks like bubble baths and Lifetime movies.  And while I don’t hate either of those two things, they don’t scream good reading.  To me it looks like a silly little lady story.  If it weren’t Meg Cabot, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.  But it is, so I’ll probably read it eventually.

The spine is even more important, but much harder for me to pin point, so we won’t even go into that, but if a cover is graphic enough for me to pick it up or click on its link, it now has maybe 30 seconds to wow me.  That back cover better have a damn description of the book.  I don’t want to read an excerpt from your last book.  I don’t want to know what so-and-so said about your books (Unless you’re Jenny Lawson; the quotes on the back of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened** are freaking hilarious).  Give me a plot summary and make it juicy.

Now, there is an exception to this.  It was brought to my attention that some books have summaries on the copyright page.  But still, those summaries are usually not terribly flashy and also usually in much smaller print.  Plus you have to open the book and find the page, and ain’t nobody got time for that.  That eats into the 30 seconds I could be using to read the summary.  Just sayin’.

So… Read any good books lately?

*I’m not being paid to endorse nook, I just happen to really like it.

**Linking to Amazon just so you know I’m not playing favorites 😀

Hard to decide…

About four years ago, I was introduced to the bands TOOL and A Perfect Circle by The Hippy.  He’s made numerous attempts to get me into bands over these years, but only a few have stuck (the other is System of a Down) while many others I merely tolerate to keep him happy (Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Supertramp, The Mars Volta…)  The key reason I dig Tool/APC and SOAD are the singers’ voices.  Lucky for Tool and APC, they have the same lead vocals. Maynard James Keenan.

I find is voice soothing.  Incredibly soothing.  Which is probably why I slightly prefer A Perfect Circle to TOOL; the music itself is more soothing.  However, there are a good number of TOOL songs I could easily listen to on repeat.  And have.

I listen to Pandora Radio a lot.  Sometimes on my laptop, but I usually listen to it on my Ipod Touch now.  It makes me feel like I’m turning my Ipod into a musical monster, and I get a real kick out of that.  I feel like I’m cheating. 🙂  Anyway, a few times now, A Perfect Circle’s version of Imagine has come on.  The Hippy and I have had discussions about this.  He believes the APC version is better, but I’m a firm believer that no one could ever, ever, ever do it better than John Lennon.  Not even Rain.  It’s like remakes of movies–the original is always better, even if the remake is good.

But now I’m not so sure.  I mean, Lennon is still better, but Maynard’s voice is starting to bring me over to the dark side.  And it is a dark side, too, considering how that version is arranged.

Compare for me, if you will…  Press the little play buttons to hear the previews for free.

A Perfect Circle

John Lennon

It’s hard, I know.

Completely unrelated, I am finding myself having to thumbs down a lot of things on Pandora.  It’s not because they are bad songs, per se…  But I found myself at work saying “Hey, that song played on my Ipod this morning.”  And Pandora just played “Hip to be Square” which played at work yesterday.  I blame it on the fact that I was introduced to Blue October thanks to work’s music, and the Blue October station is one of my favorites on Pandora.  However, that doesn’t mean I want to feel like I’m at work when I’m very clearly not.  At least it isn’t playing Christmas music.  There is a time and a place for Christmas music, and this just isn’t it.