Showing posts with label discussion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discussion. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

5 Things I Was Reading 10 Years Ago

Hello, reader friends!  So, ever since I started The Well-Read Runner feature back in March, I've started following a few running blogs in addition to my favorite book blogs.  (Howdy to you as well, running friends!)  A few weeks back, one of the topics I saw flying about with the runners was "5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago" (part of the DC Trifecta Friday Five Linkup hosted by Eat Pray Run DC, You Signed Up For WHAT?!, and Mar on the Run).  I missed out on the running meme that week, but I thought it would be fun to rework this in a book-related way.

Thanks to the magic of Goodreads, I looked back to see what I was reading around this time 10 years ago.  In summer 2005, I was a newly-minted college graduate, and had just started my first big-girl job.  I realized that I no longer had to spend all of my time reading TEXTBOOKS!  I was free to browse the library as I wished!  With that in mind, here are 5 of the books I was enjoying in the dog days of 2005:

1. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

My mom passed down an old copy of this book to me, and I finally had time to read it once I graduated from UConn.  For some reason, back then I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but my recollection is that I didn't really like it all that much...?  Ohhhhhh boy, I'm gonna go and say it...I LIKED THE MOVIE BETTER!

2. Funny--He Doesn't Look Like A Murderer by Shirley Bostrom

I actually obtained this book during the Family Violence course that I took during my senior year at UConn.  The book is a nonfiction account of the author's tragic experience with domestic violence, as her daughter Margie was murdered by her (Margie's) husband.  Bostrom came and discussed the incident with our class, as well as her work as a victim's advocate in the wake of this tragedy.  A very sad book, but one that is important to the conversation on domestic violence and its consequences.

3. The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

This is a nonfiction account of what happened when a group of Mexican men attempted to cross the US border via the Arizona desert in 2001.  As you can imagine, this book speaks to much more than  this individual journey, as it examines US border policy and brings the physical and emotional toils of the migrants to life.  This book still sticks with me 10 years later--a must-read!

4. The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

Honestly, I have no idea what this book is about.  That is pretty much the case for every John Grisham I've ever read.  I highly enjoyable at the time that I am reading them, but then I quickly forget which one is which because they are just SO DARN SIMILAR.  I once started reading a Grisham novel and made it a third of the way through before I realized that I'd already read it once before.  I guess that's a long way of saying that this book did not make much of an impression on me. :)

5. The 9/11 Commission Report

Yes, I actually did read this brick of a book.  It took me ages (I remember reading it between other novels throughout the summer), but it brought 9/11 (the actual day, as well as it's lead-up and consequences) to life in a way that I couldn't get from CNN or the New York Times.  Very comprehensive, though very very dense.

Apparently not much light reading for me in summer 2005, eh?  I suppose all that college book-learnin' was still rubbing off on me.  ;-)

What were you reading 10 years ago??

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's the end of the world...and I like it just fine. (Fictionally speaking.)

Zombie apocalypse.  Worldwide plague epidemic.  Civilization-ending environmental disasters.

No, this is not a list of reasons why you should start stocking up on canned goods.  It's a list of (fictional) topics I LOVE to read about!

Obviously, I'm not alone.  The popularity of books like World War Z, The Stand, Oryx and Crake, etc. is a testament to the fact that other readers are in this with me.

But...why?  What is it about a post-apocalyptic novel that has me running to the library to get on the hold list?  Why do so many of us love to steep ourselves in a world where, (let's be honest) if they became reality, we would likely be dead (or undead, considering)?

Let's mull that over, shall we?

1. WWYD?
Post-apolcalyptic storylines are completely immersive for me.  It's impossible to read a book about life after the "end of the world" and not think, "Here's what I would have done in that crazy situation."  I find myself planning out how I would have survived, how I would have saved my kids (and my husband, yeah, he can come too), where we could have holed up to avoid the zombie horde, etc.  It's like a story within a story, as you always get a lot more to think about than just where the novel's plot is going.

2. There's safety in the outrageous.
You know what kinds of books keep me up at night?  True crime.  Stories of real-life serial killers, stalkers, rapists, etc.  That's the stuff that makes me want to sleep with my high school softball bat under the pillow.  But a plague that wipes out 99% of the world population?  PSHAW.  I can read about it, be entertained by it, imagine what I would do if it ever happened, but it won't really ever happen.  That's the fun of it!


3. Top-notch world-building.
This is somewhat related to #1.  Compared to many other genres, post-apocalyptic novelists usually have their world-building game on lock.  Writing about a world after civilization is obliterated requires an author to think through a lot more than just what the survivors are eating and drinking.  They have to consider the tiniest details of post-disaster resources, infrastructure, government, etc. and figure out how those details will impact their characters throughout the story.  The amount of imagination and forethought this requires is staggering.  Hats off to the authors who do it well!

Jump in here, readers.  Why do YOU love (or loathe!) end-of-the-world literature?  Or do you tend to love some of them and not others?  Why or why not?  I know I'm not the only morbid reader out there...
Gratuitous Daryl Dixon photo for all of my Walking Dead fans. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thoughts on my "slow reading" of the classics...

I mentioned many (MANY) weeks ago that I started reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  This is a classic that's been on my TBR pile for a long, long time.  I even have a nice-to-look-at special Barnes & Noble hardcover edition to read.  I was excited to finally dive in!
I am going to fill this post with awesome Moby Dick jokes.
So I started it...and as with many classics, I moved slowly at first.  Older novels tend to be written in, well, older language, so it takes me a while to adapt to that style.  I didn't dislike it, but I couldn't fly through it the way I can with modern novels.

Then, when I was about 25% done, one of my book tour dates came up.  Okay, Moby Dick, move to the side for a moment.  I read the book tour book, and then picked up Moby again.

But then...oh wait!  A much-anticipated bestseller just went on sale, and I have an Amazon credit!  Just like that, the good ol' white whale takes a backseat while I gobble up another contemporary novel.

This cycle has repeated itself since December.  It is now March (OMG), and I still have about a quarter of the novel left to enjoy.

I don't dislike Moby Dick.  I mean, it's had some slow (okay, downright boring) parts at times, but overall, I do enjoy reading it.  So why can't I just bring myself to finish it?
Honestly, this happens to me a lot with classic novels.  I start them, and then take aaaaages to finish them (or don't finish them at all, as happened with Middlemarch...though let's all just agree that that book is the torture chamber of the literary canon).  Even the ones that I like, or that have a fast-moving plot, take me much longer than usual to get through.  Why, oh why?

I have usually justified this behavior by saying that I like to "slow read" my classics--really submerge myself in the (often outdated) language and styling, take my time working through it.  Plus, the extra brainpower that classic books sometimes require makes me feel like it's okay to interrupt my reading with a quicker, modern novel once in a while.

However, I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I believe there's more to it than that.  Saying I like to "slow read" these tomes makes my constant interruption of them sound almost noble, in some way.  But truthfully: I think I'm also just taking them for granted.

Because let's face it: classics aren't going anywhere.  No one's going to forget about Moby Dick tomorrow.  It's still going to be world-renowned.  They're still going to teach it in high school English classes.  People are still going to make references to it in casual conversation ("this project at work is my white whale!").  If I don't finish it today, it's okay--because there's a whole world of readers who will still want to talk about it tomorrow.

Newer books, on the other hand, don't have that feeling of longevity.  Yes, there are modern classics...but you won't know what books have that kind of staying power until their popularity has been proven in 5, 10, 20 years.  So I suppose that's why I feel the need to devour them so quickly.  Are people still going to be going gaga over The Girl on the Train in six months?  Is anyone going to care if I decide to read/review The Last Lecture this year, since that book is soooo 2008?  There's a feeling of immediate relevancy with newer books.  They're important today, but they may not be tomorrow.

Plus, sometimes you just have a favorite modern author that you know you want to keep up with.  Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Jon Krakauer, etc are still publishing books, and I know I want to read them.  ALL OF THEM!  So I put down Moby Dick in favor of these new releases, because Melville's bibliography ain't goin' nowhere.  No keeping up for me to do there.

I feel guilty admitting that.  But 'tis the truth.  I love the classics, I really do--but sometimes I just can't resist reading the Next Big Thing.  Especially when it's by an author that I know and love.  There are only so many books I can read in my little lifetime, and it's HARD to prioritize sometimes. #readerproblems

What say you, readers?  Do you often interrupt your reading of classic novels in order to tackle some newer material?  Or are you faithful to reading one book at a time, new stuff be damned?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ask The Expert...Nonfiction November Style!

Hello, Nonfiction November-ites!  We are in Week 2 of the event, and it's going well for me so far.  I finished At The Mercy of The Mountains last week, and have moved on to 1776 by David McCullough.  It's been a long time since I delved into historical nonfiction, and I'm enjoying the change of pace.  This is definitely a great event for me!  Nonfiction has been woefully absent from my life in the last year or two.

For week 2, we are tasked with any one of three options...

" Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:  Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert)."

With that in mind, I am choosing to "Ask The Expert".  Specifically, I'm looking for recommendations on nonfiction regarding American politics.  Let me explain, because that's a pretty broad category!  I enjoy books that provide an inside view into American politics.  I've tried autobiographies (My Life by Bill Clinton, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, etc), bipartisan reports (The 9/11 Commission Report), heavily biased political analyses (The Assault on Reason by Al Gore), and books that trended more towards peeping-Tom-expose than behind-the-scenes-informative ( In the President's Secret Service by Ronald Kessler).  The list goes on, but that at least illustrates some of the breadth of what I've attempted.

In all that reading, I've realized that I have several desires when I step into this genre.

-Smartly written, analytical writing.  I loved the heavily detailed account of Clinton's presidency in his autobiography; I hated the obviously-pandering-to-the-lowest-common-denominator expose style of Kessler's book.
-Not too dry.  Clinton's book had a lot of detail, but also a human element that kept my interest up (not just Lewinsky, ha).  On the other hand, the 9/11 Report was impressive, but also put me to sleep on several occasions.  It's all detail, no emotion.  Not a bad thing (I mean, consider its purpose), but just not tops on my list of reading options.
-Too heavily partisan.  This is a big one.  It's very hard to write about politics without any sort of partisan bias--I get that.  I'm not asking for every political book to be nonpartisan/bipartisan.  However, I think you can write from a political stance in a way that isn't hateful to the other side.  If you've ever read Gore's Assault on Reason, you know that that is an example of a HEAVILY partisan book...annoyingly so.  And that's coming from a Democrat.  (And since I've mentioned that--yes, I welcome books written from the right as well!  But again, as long as they are not overly hateful to the other side.  Rush Limbaugh suggestions, I can safely assume, will be left at the door.)

Just to give you an idea...without knowing much about them, a few books that have been on my TBR for a while are Pennsylvania Avenue by John Harwood, What Happened by Scott McClellan, and The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi (okay, I admit the title of that one is not promising given the above requirements, but reactions from those who have read it are welcomed!).  Autobiographies and biographies also seem to have worked well for me in the past.

So there it is, experts!  I know I gave you a tough assignment, but give it a try.  Lay it on me.  What political nonfiction should I read next?

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Year in Nonfiction (#NonFicNov)

Hello, reader friends!  In case you haven't heard, November is officially Nonfiction November, as declared by its co-hosts, Becca, Katie, Kim, and Leslie.  I'm very excited to be participating in the event this month (for reasons you will see below).  Nonfiction November includes weekly discussion posts, as well as a nonfiction book readalong, so head on over to any of the hosts' blogs to find out more.

This week's Nonfiction November discussion focuses on your year in nonfiction: take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Here's where the sad admission comes in: I've only read TWO nonfiction books in all of 2014!  I didn't even realize this atrocity until I heard about Nonfiction November and took a look back at my reviews for the year.  I read Sous Chef by Michael Gibney back in March, and Pooja Mottl's The 3 Day Reset in June, and that is IT.  So not only have I not read much nonfic at all, but I've also limited myself to food-related nonfiction.  FOR SHAME, ME.

Therefore, my obvious goal for Nonfiction November is more nonfiction.  I have no real explanation for why I've strayed from it this year.  I do enjoy nonfiction, though I tend to favor fiction overall for the entertainment value.  However, I rarely have an imbalance between the two that is this large.  So I will be doing some work on that this month!  

Even though fiction may win for entertainment value, I love nonfiction because I feel like it feeds my brain.  I have learned some of the most random, fascinating factoids through nonfiction reads.  And some nonfiction authors are so good at their craft that you often feel a level of suspense that is usually reserved for a fiction novel as you're reading their work (examples would be Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff, or In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson).

So, what exactly am I reading this month?  Well, as we know, I'm not a very fast reader these days, so I can't set the bar too high.  However, I am going to try to read a few nonfic titles that have been sitting on my at-home TBR for quite a while.  Possibilities include:
1776 by David McCullough
At the Mercy of the Mountains by Peter Bronski
Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Soul by Jack Canfield, etc
The Road Ahead by Bill Gates
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

That's just what I have on hand though.  I sparked a little Twitter discussion the other night regarding reader's recommendations for the best nonfiction, and I got a TON of great responses!  A library trip may be in order!

What say you, friends?  Will you be participating in Nonfiction November?  What types of nonfiction do you gravitate towards the most?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Apparently I'm a fickle mistress. E-Books vs. Paper!

Happy Sunday, reader friends!  I have a small point of discussion that I'd like to bat around with you today.

I've been reading The Blonde by Anna Godbersen for a couple of weeks now.  Usually, it would be odd for a relatively short novel such as this to be taking so much time for me to read.  Especially an ARC copy that I specifically requested through Edelweiss (which I don't often do).  But despite my best efforts, I am positively slogging through this thing.  Only 30% complete in the last two weeks, and it's looking more and more like this could be a DNF.

What's that, you say??  Kelly might have her SECOND DNF of the year?  I know, you're beside yourself with the horror.  I'm just far too type-A to not finish books most of the time, but I do feel like this might be the second case in recent months.

That said, part of me is starting to suspect that my disappointment in both this novel and June's The Hollow Ground can't be entirely attributed to the contents of the books themselves.  It's still primarily that, but...perhaps a little bit of it is influenced by the format.  Because you see, these two books were the last two that I read in Kindle format.

That's right.  I'm afraid I might be practicing Kindle discrimination.  Kindle-ism?  Whatever.  Either way, it's no good.

I know I often sing the praises of my Kindle, especially the Paperwhite.  The back light!  The "time left to read" counter!  The 3G capabilities!  And it absolutely helped me survive late-night feedings when Tater Tot was a newborn.
Totally me 6 months ago.
However, I think I reached a stage of Kindle burnout a few months back.  Early in the summer, I went to the library for the first time in a while, and took out a stack of real, honest-to-goodness, PAPER books.  And you know what?  IT FELT AWESOME.  A real book in my hand!  Using a bookmark again!  And of course, BOOK SMELL!  Yes, they're unwieldy at times, and they make night reading a challenge if you forget your book light, but this summer has been one of happy paper book reading for me.
True dat.
Due to this shift in preference, I've found it much harder to read on my Kindle lately.  It just doesn't hold my attention the way a paper book does, if that makes any sense at all.  And while I don't think this means the two recent DNF novels were actually amazing and their electronic format was all to blame, I do think it made an already mediocre novel feel even worse.

I'm not sure what to think of this.  Is my Kindle-averse tendency just a temporary thing?  Will I get my electronic mojo back soon?  Or is it a matter of circumstance--when I'm in a place where the Kindle will help me read easier, perhaps that's when I'll fall in love again?

What say you, readers?  What are your thoughts on ebook vs. paper formats?  Do you prefer one over the other, or does your love flipflop in both directions?  Do you feel like book format influences your feelings about a novel?

*Many other bloggers have tackled this issue as well!  One post that comes to mind is Rinn's over at Rinn Reads.  Any other bloggers have a post that they've contributed to this topic?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A long reflection on the relative merits of Book Shaming.

I'm sure most of you have heard by now about the ever-so-controversial article written by Ruth Graham at on June 5.  It's called "Against YA", and to quote its sub-heading, the basic premise is: "Read whatever you want.  But you should be embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children."

Yes, Ms. Graham's message to adult readers is FOR SHAME if you enjoy YA novels.  They weren't written for you (in fact, they are way below your level), and it's cringe-worthy for you to advertise the fact that you read them.

I've read countless blog post responses to this article by now.  The general reaction seems to be outrage (unsurprisingly).  No one wants to be judged for their reading choices, and given the popularity of YA novels among all age groups these days, Ruth Graham sure hit a nerve by attacking this particular genre.

However, unlike many of my blog colleagues, I'll be honest and admit that my initial reaction was not a seething rage at the injustice of what basically amounts to Book Shaming.  I know, THE HORROR!

Let me explain.  Yes, deep down my gut reaction was to feel upset by one reader telling another reader that their chosen literature is not acceptable.  I read what I want, dammit!  No one tells me otherwise!


I was immediately stopped in my tracks by the thought that I, also, am a Book Shamer from time to time.  You see, I make NO secret of the fact that I lose a little respect for readers who tell me that the 50 Shades trilogy is among their favorite books of all time.  And honestly, if a fellow 30-year-old told me that Twilight was the best thing they've read in the last decade, I'd be giving them a bit of the side-eye.

So why is it not okay for Ruth Graham to get judgy, but it's OK for me to be judgy?  I spent much time on this conundrum.  The struggle was real, peeps.  And for me, it comes down to two things.

NUMBER ONE: Some books are not well-written.  I am kind of snarky when people say that they love those books.

Because let's be honest: 50 Shades of Grey, its subject matter completely aside, is not winning any awards for awesome writing, grammatically or stylistically.  I haven't read the whole thing, but I've read enough to make that determination with some authority.  It is the paper equivalent of online fanfic, and it shows.  Thus, it is hard for me to take it seriously when someone tells me this is their favorite book.  At least expose yourself to authors that make better use of a thesaurus before you put this in your hall of fame.

YA novels are generally not poorly written.  Ruth Graham may not think the subject matter is at an adult level, but you can't argue that the writing is downright awesome in many cases.

NUMBER TWO: Once adults reach a certain age, I begin to expect that they've become a somewhat well-rounded reader.

This is kind of related to number one, in that I expect other adults around my age to have read MORE than just YA (or sci fi, or chick lit, or historical fiction, pick a genre).  And perhaps this point makes me more judgy than the first point does.  But if I find myself talking books with someone my own age, I guess I'd be surprised if they told me they never branched out beyond one genre.  I'm not saying you should be reading Moby Dick or War and Peace to be considered "well-read".  But you never tried anything beyond Jodi Picoult or Emily Giffin?  As much as I love those authors, I'm a little surprised.

I suppose what it comes down to is this: if you've read novels in a bunch of different genres, and you still think Twilight is your favorite, be my guest.  That's your opinion, and even if I don't share it, it's yours and OWN IT, GURRRRL.  But if your reading repertoire is 99% Twilight, Divergent, Matched, etc. and you declare them to be the bastions of modern literature...yes, I find myself being a wee bit judgmental.  Because how can you know something is a true favorite, if you've never really tried to pair it against anything else?  (And no, the Bronte and Thoreau you were required to read in high school don't count.)

So, as for Ruth Graham: at its core, no, I don't agree with her article.  Shaming someone just for reading YA, because you find it too simplistic for adult minds, seems extreme, outrageous, and yes, overly judgmental.  Even if you think YA is below the reading level of an adult, isn't it ridiculous to make adults feel ashamed when they choose to delve into this genre?  You glean different details and meanings from YA as an adult than you do as a teenager, and that alone makes it worth trying once you've reached an older age.

However--if she was aghast at adults who read YA and only YA (or only any one genre)...I might be a little more sympathetic.  Because why pigeonhole yourself?  Isn't there something to be said for being a well-rounded reader?

I guess my subheading should be "read whatever you want. But you should be embarrassed if you never try anything different."

What do you think, readers?  Am I being a total judgy mcjudgerson here?  Have you ever been a "book shamer"?  What are your thoughts on the article?

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Biggest Reading Pet Peeve, Ever, In The World, For All Time.

Readers, the diatribe I'm about to launch into is not a new topic for literature lovers.  However, since I've never mentioned it here at the Well-Read Redhead, and because I've had a recent run-in with this problem, I felt it was vital to put it up for discussion.

WHAT...THE...HELL is the deal with strangers who want to talk to me while I'm reading in public?

Most recent example:

Last week I went outside to enjoy some reading during my lunch break.  Generally, my reading spot at work is inside this big gazebo in one of our courtyards.  It's perfect because it's always shady, has benches to stretch out on, and is hidden from a lot of the nearby buildings by bushes and flowers.  The perfect private reading alcove.  (I may or may not refer to it as "MY Gazebo" in my head.  I'm a little possessive.)

Anyway, in all the times I've sat there to read, I've always had My Gazebo to myself.  However, last week as I was reading, another woman (who I had never met) came into My Gazebo with her lunch to eat.  Okay, no problem.  I look up, we exchange "Hi"s, she grabs the bench on the other side, and I go back to my book.  She reaches into her lunch bag and starts munching away.  We are peacefully co-existing.


She looks up at me and says, "I'm glad I found this place to eat.  The student union is crazy today."

And I'm like...

But okay.  I nod and say, "Yeah, busy time of the summer in there," and...go back to my book.

BUT OH NO.  She continues.  "Beautiful day.  So glad the humidity went down.  Hasn't it been awful lately?"

"Yup."  (Back to reading.)

"I hope it stays like this.  I'm taking vacation next week and it would be great if we had more weather like today's."
Luckily, after my lukewarm response to that, she ate the rest of her lunch in silence and moved out of My Gazebo about 10 minutes later.

The non-readers out there might think I'm being bitchy or antisocial.  But let me just lay it out for you: if someone is reading in public, they do not want to be disturbed by someone they don't know unless that person has something of terrific importance to say.  This would include things like:

-"Excuse me miss, but there is a bomb under your seat."  (You should verify first that it's a real bomb and thus a real threat.)

-"It appears that that plane in the sky is about to crash on or near your person."

-"Derek Jeter just walked into the room and intends to propose marriage to you."  (insert childhood celebrity crush of your choice)

-"Oh Em Gee, I read that book and LOVED it!  Let's discuss!"

I'm sad to say that I've had interruptions like the one above countless times.  On commuter trains, in libraries (LIBRARIES!!), at a coffee shop, you name it.  Don't get me wrong, people--I'm social.  I strike up conversations in elevators and grocery stores and wherever.  And of course if a friend were to interrupt me while reading, I would welcome it.  But I'm not looking to make new friends when I have a book in my hand.  JUST NO.

The moral of my story is this: the next time you want to interrupt a stranger who is happily ensconced in a book, because you have nothing to do and figure this is a great time to discuss last night's So You Think You Can Dance, pull out your iPhone.  Or plan your grocery list.  Or doodle on a napkin.  Just don't do THAT.

What say you, readers?  Am I too touchy?  Do you have other reading pet peeves that take precedence over this one?  Or is this a problem of yours as well?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cover Snobbery

Everyone always says "don't judge a book by its cover."  Which I think is great advice...for everything except books.

Yes, I try not to be judgmental of others based on appearances.  If everyone judged me by MY cover, I would not have had any friends when I was between the ages of 8 and 14.  Truth.
At the age of 9, the Well-Read Redhead enjoyed perms, florescent Disney t-shirts, and coke bottle glasses.  Not pictured: scoliosis back brace.
Friends' faces blurred to hide their embarrassment.
But throw an unappealing book cover in front of me, and unless someone can make a pretty strong case for it, you can bet I'm picking up something else to read.

A couple months back, I read a post by Melissa at the Harley Bear Book Blog that addressed this very conundrum.  Popular books that she had no desire to read, because the covers didn't strike her fancy.  I feel this way ALL THE TIME.  It's amazing what a bad cover can do for first impressions.

That's not to say I don't make exceptions--I do, and I'm often glad for it.  My favorite example of this is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  The #1 reason it took me so long to read it is because I disliked the cover--it felt cartoonish and too...magicky.  And then it ended up being one of my top books of 2012.  Moral of the story: exceptions are necessary, but the judging still happens.

So, what cover elements are the biggest turnoffs for me?

1. Any movie-inspired cover

Whenever a book is offered with either its original cover or its Hollywoodized version, I always go for the original.  I feel like the movie covers "cheapen" the appearance, for lack of a better word.  This is probably because I often think the book is 1000 times better than the movie, anyway.

2. The author's name is bigger than the title

Unfortunately, I see this trend more and more these days, and it is a serious pet peeve of mine.  Big-name authors often have their name blown up bigger than the title on the front cover.  I'm sure it helps with book sales (if you have a large following, some people don't care what the book's about--just that YOU wrote it), but as a reader, it annoys me.  The book is about the plot, not about the author.  (And yes, I know two of my faves--Stephen King and Jodi Picoult--are top offenders here.)

3. Poorly/awkwardly Photoshopped

Pertains to approximately 95% of all the self-published covers I've ever seen.  I understand the design budget is smaller, but...really?  There are some really well-done self-published covers too (The Thief of Auschwitz and Bluff are two of them) so you can't use that as an excuse.

4. Too intricate

If there's too many details on a cover, it turns me off.  I want to take one quick look and get some idea of where the book is going, or a mystery that might be revealed.  I don't want to have to pull out my magnifying glass to figure it out.

5. Too cutesy

Even if it's YA, I don't necessarily want to feel like I'm reading an after school special.

So readers, what cover elements do YOU shy away from?  And please feel free to share awkward photos of your younger selves.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Am I the only reader...

...who doesn't read the book jacket before reading the book?

I asked this question on Twitter last week, and got mixed reactions.  Many of my tweeps (including Trish, Beth, and Kathy) agreed that skipping the description is the way to go.  However, others like Amal feel that reading the description is the only way she can get a good sense of the plot before jumping in--and then she reads the book to fill in the details.

Personally, I try to avoid reading book descriptions, because I feel like they are often FULL of spoilers.  Let's use the Goodreads description of The Hunger Games (and my reaction to it) as an example:

"Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.(I preferred finding out the details of the setting as they were revealed during the story.) The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. (Again, would prefer to let this come to light as a read...makes the beginning more intriguing!) Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games.  (OMG Y'ALL, WICKED SPOILER ALERT UP IN HURRR.) But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

See what I mean?  There is so much info from the first third of the novel that is given away in this description. Katniss disapproves.

I have heard that some readers enjoy descriptions like that though, because then they don't feel as disoriented when they jump into the book.  I guess I enjoy that confusion, because the moment when I figure it out is always gratifying.  A little pat on the back for me, as an awesome super-sleuthy reader.  (It's the little things.)

But how do I know what to read, you ask?  How do I avoid reading 70's erotica when I'm really looking for contemporary YA?  First, I do check out what genre the book's been slotted into.  And then I glance over the description for keywords only.  So for The Hunger Games, I would notice things like "survive", "fight to the death", and "place once known as North America": OK, I'm sold.  That's all I need to get roped in.

So, readers: where do you fall in the reading-the-book-jacket camp?  Yay or nay?  DECLARE YOURSELF!
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