Booking Through Thursday: Blurb

October 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 3 Comments

“What words/phrases in a blurb make a book irresistible? What words/phrases will make you put the book back down immediately?”

My book choices are made largely by what’s on various award lists or recommendations from particular sources.  I’ve actually stopped reading all fiction book jackets!  It’s rare for me to browse a bookstore and come across something I want to read that I haven’t already heard of through another source. so I don’t encounter that many blurbs.

Other than that, the cover art is the big draw.  I’ve learned that for some reason, women’s fiction tends to have pictures of women from the shoulders down – so a headless woman on the cover is a sure sign that I’m unlikely to be interested in the book.  Literary fiction tends to have more abstract cover art, maybe focusing just on the title and author’s name, and I tend to be drawn in that direction.  Nonfiction, my favorite, is a different beast entirely.  I’ll read a book on an interesting topic regardless of whether the quality of writing is any good, and I might also read any book by a particular author regardless of subject.

If I am interested enough to pick up a book to scope it out, the next thing that’s going to catch my eye is whether another author has commented on it.  If it’s someone I like, I’ll look closer.  If it’s someone I don’t, I drop it like a hot rock.  Best is when two or three authors with really different styles all seem to like it.

So here’s how I choose books:  First, anything that’s been nominated for a major literary award; second, anything recommended in the “best of” on the Amazon or Powell’s sites; third, anything new by an author I follow; fourth, the occasional recommendation from a friend or another blogger.  Then I look them up on my library web site and put on hold whatever looks like I might be able to read it sometime in the next 4-6 months.  I keep a list in my PDA of books I want to read and where I can find them.

Here’s how I do not choose books:  Book jackets, professional reviews, or other bloggers’ reviews that include any plot details.  I swear I can’t understand why on earth the standard is to spell out all the plot details and character studies for the entire book.  What’s the point of reading it when you already know everything that’s going to happen?  When I read a review in a blog, I skim to the bottom paragraph and look to see whether the blogger says he or she liked the book or not.  That’s it.  When I look at a book jacket, I skip the upper section that spoils the plot, and just look for quotes about how great the book is from other authors or publications.


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  1. I actually find the what the blurbs say less important than who is writing them. I mean, no book is going to feature publicity from a review, be it from a professional publication or another author, that is anything less than glowing. At the end of the day, I just want to know which author honestly thinks the book is good enough to vouch for it. If it’s an author I respect and like, then that means far more than if it’s someone I’ve never heard of (and of course, more than if it’s an author whose work I don’t care for at all).

  2. I just wrote a post that includes too many plot points so I’ll just rec Through Black Spruce and tell you to ignore my review if you see it. Fair? It’s by Joseph Boyden and it won the Giller – or have you read it already? 🙂

  3. I am the complete opposite. I don’t mind knowing a lot of the plot points before I read a book. Very rarely do I not know what the book is about. I am a total character reader. If I fall in love with the characters (no matter the plot), then I usually like the book.

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