Judging a Book By Its Cover?


I’m curious, how do you pick the books you read? I’m sure it’s a variety of reasons, but what’s the first thing get gets your attention? The cover? The author? The title? A review in Kirkus? Do you purposely check certain blogs to see what’s getting a buzz? Or do you come by new titles randomly? Do you make regular trips to the bookstore to see what’s new? Or do you wait till you have coffee with a favorite pal to hear what she recommends?

For me it’s one or two or all of the above, except for reviews. In fact, I try to avoid reviews all together. Why? Because unless the reviewer is someone with whom I share reading tastes, it doesn’t really matter to me what he/she thinks.  Worse, I hate when I read a review and get a spoiler (as what happened with a recent review in the NYT). I like to know as little as possible before deciding to read a book. Part of it, for me, is the element of delightful surprise when I fall in love with a character and his/her story. I can’t get that from a summary. But then, again, I DO need to know something about it to pick it up. I prefer contemporary fiction and sci-fi/fantasy (but not necessarily vampires/werewolves/zombies). I’ve even grown a little tired of dystopia.

Let’s take a look at some of my recent yet unread book purchases and break down what caught my attention.

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly: This one is easy. It’s book 3 in Donnelly’s “Rose” series of adult historical fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two so it was easy to buy the third. What got me to buy the first in the series? I saw The Tea Rose face out on a shelf at the bookstore and the cover caught my eye. When I saw it was by Jennifer Donnelly (I really loved her YA novel A Northern Light), I filed it away in my head for something I might want to buy later. Then my teen daughter’s best friend raved about the series, so that clinched it. I bought the first book.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis: Another easy one – I read the first in the series, Across the Universe, and knew as I closed that book that I just had to read the next book. What got me to buy the first one? I think it was blog buzz. Many of the blogs I read were raving about it and I kept seeing it at the bookstores. I did read the inside flap (not all of it, just enough to give me an idea of what it was about), and bought it.

Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith: I’m a fan of Greg’s. I loved his previous MG books, particularly Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo.  Greg has a great knack for combining humor and science into a thoroughly entertaining story. For this reason, I’m excited to have an ARC of his newest (coming out in March, I believe)! Time travel and dinosaurs? I’m on it!

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella: I admit it. I have a soft spot for Sophie Kinsella’s adult romance/fiction. She saved me while I was living in Shanghai. There were few opportunities to buy Western books there and even fewer choices. It was in Shanghai that I got hooked on Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and devoured every one of her books I could get my hands on there. (On my trips home to the States, I’d always bring an empty suitcase to fill with books and other supplies – like toothpaste!) When I saw that she had a new novel coming out, I didn’t even need to know what it was about. I pre-ordered it. I’m faithful to my favorite authors.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: Ah, here we go. It was definitely the combination of the cover and the title that got me to pick up this book! And when I read it was about strangers meeting on a plane? I was hooked. (For those of you who don’t know, I met my husband on a plane.)

So there you have it. The books that I have most recently purchased, haven’t yet read, but am greatly anticipating! I suspect I’ll buy more before I get through reading those.

On a side note, congratulations to the winners of the ALA awards! For a complete list of the winners: http://ala.org/news/pr?id=9108! And for a fun, fabulous post about the award winners, check out Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup blog!

9 responses »

  1. I think about this all the time: why do I read the books I read? And I can’t quite figure it out. I just kinda become “aware” of books. But yeah, I think it’s mostly (a) I’m interested in the pitch/topic and (b) personal recommendations. At some point, I’m curious about the reviews, but that’s usually when I’m halfway through a book and loving or hating it.

    • That’s interesting what you say about reading a review during or after you read a book. I might try that. It could be a good way of finding out with which reviewers I might share tastes. Hmmmm.

  2. Thanks for the link love :).

    For me, it’s a combination of things. I don’t avoid reviews, but appreciate how some of them can sometimes help me narrow down my choices, which can be overwhelming at times. Of course reviews are all subjective and I take everything with a grain of salt. I do value personal recommendations, and my reading choices have a lot to do with mood.

    I don’t browse in bookstores as much as I used to, and am reading most of my fiction on my Kindle, so I search for new books online. I’ve always been curious about Sophie Kinsella’s books — you’ve now convinced me to try them!

    • I have a hard time browsing for books online. How do you find recommendations? do you type in an author? A genre? Is there a feature like iTunes where the site finds books for you based on your previous purchases? I still love going to the bookstore to browse – to see the covers, the displays, to pick up books and turn them in my hand. I do love my Kindle, too! 🙂 Perfect for travel and immediate purchasing of books! I do find that I’m starting to buy the book after a read one on my Kindle that I particularly loved. There’s nothing like having a beloved book on my shelves.

  3. I am so with you on not reading reviews. Not only did they start to put voices in my head that weren’t mine, nit-picking things about a book that I would’ve otherwise not noticed, I hate knowing too much about a book before I read it. I actually don’t even read the synopsis/blurb–ever. I don’t want to know anything about a book before I read it other than genre. I read a lot of author blogs and a few trusted review blogs (though I only skim their reviews to see if they liked it) and if they love a book, I give it a chance.
    Covers. Yes. I totally judge books by their covers. It’s really lame but true. I love a good cover.
    Trusted authors. There are certain authors whose books I will buy no matter what. Sophie Kinsella!!! I love her books. They are such fun reads that always have me laughing out loud and that is a great quality in a book IMO. I can’t wait for I’ve Got Your Number. I pre-ordered it too.

    • I see you and I are alike in not wanting to know too much (or anything) about what a book is about before diving in. I do like to know the basics – like is it a love story, does it seem like a sad book, is it funny, is it an adventure, etc. So just the barest of basics. 🙂 I’m the same with movies, too!

  4. What a neat post! I too don’t read too many reviews because I don’t like spoilers either. I am usually drawn to a book if I like the title and/or synopsis. I also have been drawn to books written by either an author I have met or an agent or editor I want to learn more about.

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