Our Reading Lives

Confession: I Pick Books By Their Covers

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Always books. Never boring.

This is a guest post by Natalie Meyer. Natalie quit her job to travel the world with her husband and a Kindle loaded with books. In her spare time, she can be found taking photos, reading, and writing about her travel adventures at www.thosetravelmonkeys.com. Follow her on Twitter @TravelwithTTM.


I choose books based on their covers.

I should be more specific and say that I choose books based on their titles. I want cool titles; unusual titles. Titles that people will hear and think “she must be really hip to read a book with such a thought-provoking name. I am simultaneously impressed and intimidated by her intellect and awesomeness.”

I suppose it doesn’t need to go quite that far. “That sounds like an interesting book” is probably enough.

As Jill Guccini mentioned, when you are an avid reader with avid reader friends there are recommendations coming at you left and right and you simply can’t read all the books. Whether it’s the newest book by their favorite author, the book with the most interesting cover, or the shortest book on the shelf, everyone must have some sort of rhyme and reason for how they pick what to read next. And, when push comes to shove, I pick books that will make me sound cool. When I’m talking to someone, I want to be able to utter sentences like “I’m reading The Brief History of the Dead,” or “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was one of my favorite books of the last year.” Sentences like “Drive is an interesting book even if it is much different than the movie” only seem to inspire conversations about Ryan Gosling. I’m game to discuss Ryan Gosling as much as the next girl but the conversation never really makes it around to the book. The title just doesn’t inspire curiosity.

I have to be honest, though. I’m not sure how else you’re supposed to pick a book. If a website named “Books Natalie Would Seriously Enjoy” started listing books I would seriously enjoy, I’d still have to pick which one to read first. I would start with the most unique title. I guess it might depend on which one had the longer waiting list at the library. But, imagining they had the same wait list, I’d go with the funkier title each time.

As a recent example, consider the Tournament of Books. Each year, this awesome book battle pits the (arbitrarily selected) best books of the last year against each other. I always try to read as many of the books on the list as I can. But, with 17 books on this year’s list, how do you pick which one to start with? For me, A Tale for the Time Being and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia caught my attention much quicker than Hill William and The Son. I apologize to those books (which, I have to say, were defeated by books with weirder-sounding names) but they were shoved down my priority list.

As everyone who is a fan of romantic comedies knows, though, the strategy of choosing the glitz over the substance doesn’t always work out. I thought The Tuner of Silences had such an interesting title that I petitioned my library to purchase it. Once I got it, I couldn’t make it past the second chapter. Similarly, I don’t think I even made it past the first few pages of At Night We Walk in Circles despite its unusual name. Meanwhile, I loved The Goldfinch and The Dinner despite their having arguably the most boring titles on the list. Clearly, this approach is not foolproof.

If your favorite book reviewer suggests two books, how do you pick which one to go with? I need to know so that I’m not led astray by the siren song of cool titles forever!