How many books do you think are published every year? Go on, take a guess. A whopping 1 million! Yes, that’s right, according to statistics on Google, two books are published every minute. Yet, not all of them tickle your imagination. So how do you sort the good ones from the lemons? It’s a problem of asymmetric information. No, I don’t mean to get all technical, but, the problem is, that we live in the world of packaging and books are no different. So often the author withholds information about the book which you wouldn’t know unless you’ve bought the book and read it.
How do you ascertain, the book isn’t going to be a waste of money? How do you make sure that you’ll enjoy the book?
I have a five step mechanism to choose a book, and, hey, it’s worked for me. I call it ‘The Litmus Test for Books.’ Maybe, it’ll work for you too?
1. The Cover.
Don’t go all – ‘haven’t you heard, Don’t judge a book by its cover’ – on me. I have, but it’s practically impossible for me not to. How can you not notice the cover and just be restricted to noticing the content? The cover is absolutely the first thing about a book that strikes me.I cannot be drawn to a book, which looks like a Manual. The Cover is something that conveys the idea of the book in a single page.
As a child, I was fascinated by books that were colorful, had glitter on them. That’s what made me pick my first books – ‘Noddy’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’. Then, it was the girly phase – of tiaras, princesses, fairytale romances. Now, I like my cover to be interesting. It needs to intrigue me, to force me to open the book and want to read it.
Check out Anthony Burgess’s – “A Clockwork Orange.”It’s been voted the best cover! And, for good reason. The cover itself beckons a person to open the book.
2. The Title.
Same goes for the title. It needs to grab my attention. If I’m looking for a particular book, or if I follow an author, it isn’t important. But, for the newer writers, it’s extremely important for the title to catch my eye, to pull me towards the book. Isn’t ‘Bombay Duck is a Fish’,an interesting title?That’s why the book’s on my reading shelf!
What are the titles that have caught your attention?
So we are two steps down but really, sometimes, good titles and covers can be misleading. That’s why, we need step 3.
3. The Blurb and the Opening Line.
The blurb provides a glimpse into the book and must be something that must make me want to read on. I can never forget a blurb at the back of one of the Harry Potter books, which goes like this:
“Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. “It is time,” he said, “for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything. I ask only a little patience.”
I accept I was already a fan, but its things like this which stick in my head. I read this book of 766 pages in a single day in my excitement.
And, the opening line -it has to make me think. Either please me, or repulse me, but hey getting a reaction is important. An opening line that always stays with me, and probably with you too is, from Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice‘
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Sometimes, review quotes are also helpful, but then not all books have them.
4. The first few, and the last few pages.
This one’s out of habit. Where did it come from? I have no idea! But, ever since I was a child, every time I went to a store, I would flip through the first few pages, the last few pages, and, sometimes if I found the book interesting, a few random pages in between.I don’t like to start reading a book, and then be disappointed in the end. Of course, in the process I’ve spoilt many a climax, but, then I enjoyed reading how the characters got there.
Have you read ‘The Kite Runner‘ by Khaled Hosseini? The book starts off with a child being raped, it’s revolting, but, it’s intriguing. And that’s why I read the book, and, what an amazing read it was!
Btw, if you are a mystery lover, perhaps you should give the last few pages a miss, but for all other books, it’s helpful. Trust me!!!
5. The First Two Chapters.
After my 15 year old cousin, who mind you, has actually read Salman Rushdie, recommended “Midnight’s Children” to me, I was all for it. It had an interesting cover, a riveting blurb, an appealing title, and some remarkable reviews. But, I tried and I tried and I failed. It just wasn’t the book for me. And that’s why this fifth test is essential.
If the first few chapters don’t keep me so glued to the book, they it isn’t the one for me. So, if you have an opportunity to skim through the beginning of the book before buying it, be sure to do it. You don’t want to spend money on a book, that will forever lie, gathering dust on your bookshelf now, do you?
So, that’s my secret formula for picking out the perfect novel. What’s yours?