Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Before reading: have you already made up your mind?

Found here.

There's always a kind of book that calls to you, one you're positive you will enjoy just from the summary. For example, I read the copy for Kathleen O'Dell's historical middle-grade fantasy The Aviary and fell in love on the spot. (Read it yourself and let me know what you think!)

Then there are books that don't sound quite up your alley. They might surprise you, you know, but really, it comes down to whether you're willing to invest some time into starting something that probably won't hold your attention.

Those are the basic judgements you mentally make before reading any book. But there are more, subtler factors that go into deciding your opinion of a book before you've even cracked open the covers.

  1. Summary. Sure, you might've decided that you like the sound of the book. But your decision was founded on the book's summary, right? And that summary was written by a copywriter, whose job is to sell that book. If winged mermen are on trend, maybe they'll emphasize that aspect of the book, even if it doesn't play a large part. Thus a book's summary is only as good as its writer.
  2. Hype. It's everywhere, thanks to ye old Internet -- less so for MG authors than YA (anyone notice that all-out marketing campaign/Internet takeover for Veronica Roth's Insurgent?), but it's definitely present. Take R J Palacio's Wonder. I wouldn't have picked it up if our own Michael Gettel-Gilmartin hadn't talked it up -- but when I did pick it up, I expected much more than if I'd found it myself.
  3. Series. Sequel-itis happens a lot. If a debut was critically acclaimed, you might go into the second book either expecting more of the same awesomeness, or fearing the book won't live up to the first -- or a mixture of both. (This is especially true for trilogies: it's that dreaded middle book.) Or if it's a last book -- how much of a happily-ever-after do we get? I face this worry right now with Eoin Colfer's last Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian. I'm both anticipating and fearing reading it.
Other factors include publisher (e.g. I don't expect great things from Simon Pulse -- but don't let them know), author (my friend Audrey would give her pancreas for Markus Zusak's unreleased The Bridge of Clay) or even yourself. Maybe you've gorged on contemporary and you just want to read a sci-fi, which makes the next contemp that crosses your desk the unlikely victim. Or you've had one bad experience with a verse book that's soured other verse books for you.

Of course, you might go into a book completely blind, free of judgement. And there's nothing wrong with that, either. But it seems to happen less and less these days,

What do you think? How much affects your opinion before you read?

--Yahong :)


  1. This is a great question. Expectation is a huge part of it. I'm very rarely disappointed in the books I pick. I don't know if it's a matter of taste, or what, but maybe because I know so many writers and publishing pros, I almost never read a book I don't end up loving.

  2. I'm a huge sucker for a great cover. Gets me every time! I love Dee's cover for Wolf Storm, very cool, and W.H.'s cover for Malcolm at Midnight. Maybe it's my art background, but when I see a cover I love I have to have it! I do read the jacket flap too, but a good cover will get me to buy something that normally I wouldn't. ;)

    1. Me too. Previous books by the same author or a fresh premise get me, too. Probably the biggest draw, though, is a strong recommendation from a trusted friend.

  3. The summary is what draws me in and I have been disappointed if the book is very different from the summary. On the other hand, I made myself read a book I wanted to highlight on a website, even though I wasn't crazy about the summary, and found I was glad the actual book was far better than I expected.

    These days too much hype actually turns me off, because I know more about how the industry works. I'd rather give less-pushed books a chance.

    (Hilary, thanks for the shoutout for the Wolf Storm cover. I love, love, love it.)

  4. I go into all reading experiences with an open mind. I preach that to my students, so I don't want to be a hypocrite. However, there are certain books that I have either more or less passion about going in. And that's simply a result of preference. I am not a big historical fiction fan, so if I'm set to read one I'm usually less passionate. But I love being surprised, so that's why I still read it. On the other hand, I'm a huge MG action-adventure fan, so I am crazy psyched when I'm about to start one. However, I have been let down many times, so I know there's a chance it'll happen.

  5. Yup, it's the trusted friend that gets me to bestir myself. Either that, or my tyrannical book group who often lead me to titles I would never give a second glance to in a bazillion years.

    (Yahong, did you like WONDER after I yelled about it so loudly?)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!