Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to choose a book

Do you judge a book by its cover? I certainly do, to some extent, to the great delight of art and marketing departments in publishing houses the world over. There are certain things that will always convince me to pick up a book: any sort of water word in the title (sea, lake, river, flowing, etc.), book or library in the title, a mostly blue cover, anything that looks like a pool with that sort of water-washed, dappled sunlight thing going on, a cover illustration looking like a book or books (old ones with battered bindings are particularly appealing) or something to do with a library, I do have a fondness for the current trend of disembodied legs so we don't see a character (especially since art departments so frequently get the main character's look so totally wrong), use the word epistolary somehow and you've got my heart sewn up right there, and I love swooning heroine sort of covers on historical books. I'm sure there's more but I'll quit boring you with my idiosyncrasies before I completely lose you.

I don't necessarily buy everything I pick up but given my habits, the odds are pretty good if I take the time to read the back cover copy. I don't think there's a magic thing about the back cover copy that ensures my purchase but there are things that make me return the book to the unsold stacks immediately: if it says, at any point (front cover, back cover, in the blurbs, or in the cover copy itself), that it is a fast-paced thriller, if it mentions a body or blood, if it actually uses the word "dysfunctional." One of my old book clubs, two states ago, dismissed all books that claimed "International Bestseller" status unless someone was willing to vouch for the book. And I know more than a few people who won't buy a book with the Oprah seal of approval on it (I'm certain that there are also more than a few who buy books *because* of that seal too, so...). I'm more lenient on those things but am firmly in the camp of people who *hate* movie covers on books.

So what's do my latest purchases look like, you ask? One has a woman you can only see the midsection of putting on an apron and the dominant colors are blue and yellow. One is yellow with a cartoonish circle of foods, a person riding a bike, and a tractor. One has a 1940's woman hugging a man in uniform and only part of their heads are visible (predominantly white and olive). One has a woman turned away from the camera and zipping up a sherbet colored dress (predominantly greeny-blue). And the last is predominantly a deep rich blue with an open jar of fireflies on it. Any guesses about what I just bought?

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