Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Photo courtesy of o5com, Creative Commons Attribution License
Last night I was in a bookstore checking out the titles on the Teen Fiction New Releases shelf when I overheard some animated conversation from the other side of  the shelf. It appeared to be a few girls gushing over the books they loved and trashing the ones they hated...and briefly commenting on ones they read that were "all right but not earth-shattering". After a few minutes of listening, I was dying to actually see which ones they were pointing to, so I wandered around the other side and intentionally eavesdropped. The three girls (about 15-16, I'd guess) were chatting comfortably and getting excited to share their finds, both good and bad. They seemed to gravitate toward the romance and contemporary fiction rather than the supernatural and fantasy. "OMG...this one was fantastic!" "I read this one three times! And I want to read it again." "The story was good, but the ending sucked." "Have you read this one?" I stood there for some time, trying to look like I was searching for a book to read rather than purposely listening in on their comments. It was very enlightening. Some authors they loved all of their books, others they loved one or two of their books but felt that the rest all seemed to exactly like everything else they wrote. Others they absolutely hated. They were very free with their praise and criticism.

Then they went on to discuss which book jackets they liked...and didn't like. This was particularly interesting. They pointed to ones they loved and discussed them. By that point I was doing all I could not to enter in to their conversation. Finally, after many, many jackets discussed, I piped up and said, "Sorry to interrupt, but I find it interesting that most all of the jackets you say you love don't have images of people on them." (Especially odd since it seems that so many of today's jackets show close-ups of girls' faces.) After a look of shock--whether at my intruding on their conversation or realization that they actually had ignored the faces, I don't know--one of the girls turned to me and said, "That's because the girl never looks like the girl in my head." Then the other two chimed in that they hate to have a picture of the girl on the front because it messes with the image they get by reading the book. Hmmm...I thought about this and realized that it's that very thing that makes me cringe upon seeing any of the Twilight movies. Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson look nothing like the Bella and Edward I saw as I was reading. For that reason, I just can't stomach the movies. The girls then went on to share with me some of the books WITH characters on them that they liked (Thirteen Reasons Why--which, incidentally, shows not the boy main character but the dead girl; Before I Fall--so close up that things like hair and body shape are hidden). They also liked books with just a piece of a person (such as feet or hands) but not a clear image of what the character looks like.

I found this entire conversation so interesting, and it has stayed with me. What makes you want to read a book you see on a shelf? How much does the image play into your decision? And, ultimately, does it have an effect on your reading?


  1. I enjoyed reading your post!! Hmmm...I would have to say what inspires me to pick up a book is the cover first of all. I like it to be something appealing. Then I read the discription of what it is about and that usually makes up my mind. Your post was really interesting- sometimes it is nice to eavesdrop on others conversations and just listen to what people are saying. :) Very nice post!!

  2. Thanks, Britt. I generally do the same. The cover first, then the description, then quotes from others. With the growing popularity of ebooks, I wonder what the best way to reach potential readers will be.


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