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:



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:



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 😀


Why I’m a nerd… And proud of it.

Because I read a lot, I can hardly say what my favorite book is. It’s even harder with movies, though I read more than I watch movies. I think, however, I may have narrowed it down to two: one fiction, one nonfiction. In the fiction corner, it’s Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins.  Many of Robbins’ books are among my top… oh… 20 or so due to their humor, but Still Life is number one.  I’m happy it was my first of Robbins’ books because it is undoubtedly the best in my mind, but it has made it hard for subsequent books to live up to the standard of Still Life.  (And a big thank you to Patrick at Milkweed Editions for recommending Robbins to me; I am forever indebted.)

In the nonfiction corner is, without a doubt (mostly because I’m not a huge nonfiction fan), Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. There’s a few things I love about this book.  1. I get to read about punctuation in a humorous way, and understand that I’m not alone in caring. 2. I get to learn about the differences between British and American usage, and I find that infinitely interesting.  I will be the first to admit that I don’t get punctuation perfect–not in chat, and not in blog, but I try my damnedest when I write technically–but I definitely am a stickler for what I consider the very basics: comma usage and apostrophe usage.  I expect people to know the difference between “they’re,” “there,” and “their.”  I expect people not to write “I’m leaving home, and arriving there on Friday.”  And silly me, I expect them to know why.

However, the most awesome thing about Eats, Shoots, and Leaves–the #3 on my list of why I love the book–is that it introduced me to the interrobang.  “What is the interrobang,” you ask?  It’s something you use frequently without ever knowing what it was called.  To demonstrate interrobang usage, I invite you to rephrase your question.  Try “What the fuck is the interrobang?!”  There!  Did you see it?  That little twist in the sentence that signifies surprise as well as question.  But, did you know there is an actual symbol for the interrobang?  ‽ POW!  Wait, that didn’t have enough oomph….

That, kids, is the interrobang.  And in hopefully just a few days, I will be the proud owner of these amazing interrobang earrings. And you can’t have them.  Neener.