Don’t know what to read next? Follow these 3 steps

Photo by Eliabe Costa on Unsplash

Sometimes, you just want to choose a book for yourself. You don’t want to be influenced by what your cool aunt is reading, what is on your syllabus, or what is listed in ‘100 books to read before you die’. You just want to walk into a book shop and find that book with an amber glow, letting out the sweet sounds of singing seraphim.

Whether you like to bumble around a bookshop or scroll through Amazon, there’s a way of getting close to this feeling. Just follow these three steps.

Step 1) Judge the Cover

Stop taking the phrase never judge a book by its cover too seriously. It’s just a metaphor, some words of wisdom about not judging situations. I don’t think you should apply this to books. This is the closest you’re going to get to having a book beckon you like a literary siren.

We are psychologically drawn to things that please our eyes and seem familiar to us. Because of this, a huge amount of effort goes into book covers to try and appeal to its target audience. Dark colour schemes with pops of red usually connote horrors and thrillers, and pale pastels are typical for romance and feel-good reads.

When I bought The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, I didn’t know who she was, and I wasn’t exactly looking for a short story collection. This was the first thing I saw.

Book Design by Debbie Glasserman

I had a visceral reaction to this cover, I was sure I’d never seen anything like it. Seeing this beautiful gothic woman with corpse-like skin and strange eyes stabbed at my senses. It appealed to the little girl in me that adored Tim Burton. I could smell the stale cigarette smoke and feel the thumbs pressing into my eyeballs. It put me on edge but also intrigued me.

So, it’s perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover, as long as it’s not the only tool of judgement you’re using. If you only buy books solely on their cover, you risk building a collection of very pretty but unread books.

So now you’ve found your pretty book, onto the next step!

Step 2) Judge the Blurb

The blurb is usually a combination of three things; some complimentary quotes from authors and magazines, a small teaser about what the book is about, and some information about the author. These facets of the blurb hold the power to intrigue or bore the reader before even reading the first page.

You want to start a book with a vague idea of what you’re getting into, and not be left feeling confused or tricked by the cover that caught your eye. I’d say the most helpful aspect of the blurb is the teaser, and it’s what I put most of my focus on when analysing the blurb.

The blurb on this edition of Enriquez’ collection left me very impressed and interested. The authors' quotes commend the ‘twisted lustful whispers in the dark’ and call it a ‘weird and wonderful exploration of contemporary horror’. Okay, cool.

The teaser says that there will be ‘murderous intentions, family betrayals, and morbid desires’. Then it hints at some of the story plots, the ‘unearthed bones [that} carry terrible curses’, and ‘unsettling tales of revenge, witchcraft [and] fetishes’. It made me very eager to read more.

The ‘about the author’ section lets me know that Enriquez is an award-winning writer whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. It tells me about other things she has written, and subconsciously, I’m very impressed by her.

Side note- Just because the writer is award-winning doesn’t mean that you’re going to like reading it. I wouldn’t have bothered reading about the author If I was impressed by the teaser.

So, if the cover and the blurb are making you excited to read more, it’s onto the final step!

Step 3) Judge the first page

I think most book readers unconsciously scan for covers that they like (even if we have been told not to), and some of us are already used to reading the blurbs.

We may like the sound of the story, but we may not like the way that the story is told. Every writer has their style, and every reader has their preference. Reading the first page is a good way of deciding whether you will enjoy the way the story is told.

Good writers know that the first chapter, story, or poem is the most important, as this gives the reader a bit of exposition and helps solidify their first impressions.

So I opened the first page of the first story of The Dangers of Smoking in bed. The first story is called ‘Angelita Unearthed’, and I already know this is going to be a strange, paranormal resurrection story.

But the story doesn’t open very creepily, the narrator is talking about her grandmother disliking the rain. Even though I wasn’t hit with the creepiness I was expecting, I still wanted to know more. Was the grandmother going to be the one unearthed? Or was the narrator the unearthed one? I wanted to turn the page. That’s how I knew that I was going to buy the book.

So, if you followed these steps, and each one filled you with intrigue, then I think that means you have found your next read… Enjoy!



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