Book Description Phrases That Drive Me Nuts

We all have our own peculiar book-selection procedures. My fellow Rioter Kim goes by the subtitle, where possible. Others are won over by blurbs by authors they trust. Me? Well, to be honest, I start off by judging a book by its cover. (What? So maybe I’m shallow.) But then I usually turn to the book description to see if a candidate is really up my alley, and I can usually tell within a sentence or two if a book is going to be a candidate. In fact, there are a whole bunch of words and phrases that, if I find them in a book’s description, usually mean I won’t be reading any further. It may not be fair, but there are SO many books out there—so many that you can’t read all the things—I have to be a bit particular with my time.

Here’s a partial list of words and phrases that almost guarantee I’ll continue browsing (developed with some help from my fellow cynical bastards here at Book Riot):

Unflinching“: Code for “unrelentingly depressing.”

Portrait of a marriage/family“: Bickering, boring straight people, usually obscenely rich. No thanks.

Exotic East“: Really? No.

Quirky“: Step right up, manic pixie dream girl and hipster entourage. But I won’t join you.

Moral dilemma“: Way too much thinking—I do enough of that in my day job. Blurgh.

Luminous“: Books don’t glow.

Tour de force“: The author tried really hard, so you should read this. And yet.

Triumph of the human spirit“: If the human spirit is inevitably triumphant, why should I bother reading your book? I know how it ends, which is boringly.

A meditation“: SNORE

Fathers and sons“: Daddy issues

Mothers and daughters“: Mommy issues

Spiritual“: Not only not my cup of tea, it’s not even in the same cabinet.

Unputdownable“: That’s not a word, so why don’t you tell me why I won’t want to put it down instead of embarrassing yourself?

Still haunted by“: As in the protagonist is “still haunted by” the death of a child, a terrible thing s/he did as a teenager, the bad shellfish at dinner last night, etc.

Psychological thriller“: I’m going to be anxious and annoyed throughout much of this one.

So what turns you off when you’re searching for a book to read?

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