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I was browsing in my fave local indie bookshop the other day … looking at all the new arrivals.  Then I got into a conversation about what makes you pick up a book – or rather, what is it that makes a book cry Pick me! Pick me!   

There are some obvious factors:

  • In particular, I’m a sucker for a gorgeous cover.  I succumbed to the lure of the  hardback of Barbara Trapido’s new novel Sex and Stravinsky without a second glance – no waiting for the paperback.
  • Ditto for a quality production – good quality paper and covers, nice endpapers etc.
  • The ‘BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime’ sticker on The Still Point by Amy Sackville (which I reviewed here) confirmed the promise of the lovely cover.
  • A great quote from a respected publication or author helps too – “Little Women on Mushrooms” – New York Times – makes Alice Hoffman’s latest, The Story Sisters sound irresistible!
  • Then it is a huge help if you’ve heard something positive too – be it a good review in the weekend papers, or (increasingly important for me) a recommendation from fellow bloggers and friends.
  • Then there are favourite subjects and settings – Venice, (plus Italy in general), Russia, Dystopias and Fairytale elements all tick the boxes for me.
  • I do read the blurbs, but I only flick through a couple of pages of the book to see how the words fall on the page, reading no more than a sentence or two usually.

So what makes me less likely to pick up a book?

  • I admit it, I’m shallow!  Unless I’ve heard good things, a boring or poorly designed cover is a no-no.
  • I also admit, I can be a bit of a booksnob at times – if it’s a genre I don’t normally read, romance (sorry!), for instance, I won’t look at it either, that goes the same for cover quotes from the tabloids.
  • A friend says he only has to see the words ‘studied creative writing’ now in a new author biog and he loses interest instantly.

I think it all boils down to gut instinct in the end – well, that and the feeling I get sometimes that you don’t choose books, they choose you …

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