Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me Match

Ever wish there was an eHarmony for buying books?

I do. Because I never know if I'm actually going to like the book I'm looking at. I mean, sometimes things look good in the store, and you bring them home, maybe you set them on the TBR pile for a week/month/year or maybe you crack 'em open right away, but ten minutes in you think, "Woah, this is not the book I left the store with. What's going on here?"

I think we've all been burned by books before.

Buying books sometimes reminds me of the dating world.

Often book buying is a bit of a shallow process. We don't want to admit it, but we make snap judgments, often based on prejudice or physical appearance. But that's how we have to do things, because we don't have the time to give every book in the world the attention it merits.

Everyone's got a type: You go to the bookstore, you stroll over to the section of your genre. If you're me, it's probably YA. If you're some of my friends, its manga. If you're my cousin, it's something about politics. Everyone's got a type. And those are the books you'll spend most of your time looking at. Sure, a really (sexy/hot/attractive) interesting looking book in another genre might catch your eye, but everyone's got their type.

Everyone goes off looks: Yes, people are shallow, visual beings. One thing that gets people to pick up a book is the cover. A really pretty/artistic/dramatic cover can really grab a person. And you need to grab someone, or else they won't get to the deeper parts of the selection process.

The Name: You ever meet someone and think, 'Oh, god, another Brenda. Brenda's hate me.' And then you're less comfortable with that person. (For me, it's Jessicas. I don't think they like me. Oddly enough, my laptop is named Jessica. Hmmm....) It's the same thing with titles. Let's face it, Twilight readership would probably have been greatly reduced if it had been called I Sparkle in the Sun. At least, I think it would have. Okay, I can basically take to the bank that if Dead Until Dark had been called Awake at Sunset I would not have picked it up.

Once you've gotten this far, you can crack the cover, skim, read the blurbs, have an actual conversation with that book and get to know what it's really about. True, you won't really know the deal there until you get it home and can go all the way with it, but now you're getting friendly.

The front flap: This is a quick conversation, maybe a coffee. You get to know about the story and the key characters. And that's great. Maybe you decide you want to hear more. Maybe you decide to put it back on the shelf. I know, if you're like me, just seeing the word vampire on that flap means it's going back on the shelf. It's unfair to many good books, I'm sure, but that's just how I feel about books at the moment.

The skim: This is serious. Reading the first page can usually give you a good idea about how you're going to feel about the book as a whole. Now, I'm not claiming you can figure the whole book out from there, or that books can't get better or worse from that point, but I think that if a book's made it this far, it's beaten out a lot of competition, and that it's down to the final cut. If it's a voice you like or a plot that sounds good, maybe you decide to take it home. Maybe the feel isn't right for you, and you leave it at the store.

Sometimes I wish there was a service that shortened the whole process. Someone that could hand you a book and say, "Yep, here you go, you're gonna love it." But, I don't think that's ever going to happen.

A well, c'est la vie. And, until then, I still enjoy browsing.

How about you? How do you decide what books to read?


  1. Great post. This is something that always stumps me, because it really is shallow sometimes! Covers really work on me. If it's an unusually beautiful cover, I'll just keep going back to it in the store. I'll also read through several random pages to try and get a sense of the voice and the subject matter. If I connect with those things, I'll buy it. Reading it is a different matter.

  2. My friend has an incredible talent for picking out unforgettable books. I always wait for her to suggest a book, and she usually passes books onto me, thus saving me a lot of money.

  3. Davin -- I'm the same way. I do tend to be seduced by an awesome cover.

    Susan -- That's a pretty awesome talent to have. She sounds like a good person to know.