Today’s prompt made me wonder whether I should write about how to win my heart as a reader, or how to win my heart. When I thought about why I choose to read a book and why I read on, I realised that a writer and a lover have to do just the same things.
5 ways to win my bookish heart
- The Cover, including title and sub-headings. Although I have preferences for size, material and colours, the first thing which normally catches my eye is the title. Is it witty? Is it more matter-of-factly? Is it a teaser? A title might have something to do with me or with a topic I’m interested in to catch my attention. Can I believe what I see, or is it blatantly bs*ing into my face? When I pick up the copy, how it feels might be an indicator whether I go to step 2 and read the jacket text or not. If the title and subheading is attractive enough in itself, I jump to step 2 immediately. However, I like paperbacks, the English-American paperbacks, not the German ‘Taschenbuch’. Taschenbücher usually feel cheap. Paperbacks are more solid, but not like a hardcover. Hardcovers look great on the shelf, but it’s not convenient to read them. I want a book which withstands being read without falling apart. And at the same time I want to leave my marks without distroying a perfect outside. Don’t get me wrong, looks are important! But I like a wide range of looks, and books should be fun to read, not fun to watch.
- The Blurb. It might include some scanning through the pages, reading one or two sentences. I don’t spend much time here. It’s a quick coffee or some small talk to see whether the first impression holds in the sunlight. Do you like what others say about the book, and more importantly, who is quoted as a reference? Do you like the language the writer uses or what he tells you about his intention to write it? Are you going to buy it and start reading?
- The Opening. I never remember first sentences, because for me, the first impression is already over when I open the book. During the first one or two chapters I find out whether I will read on. When I was younger I didn’t even consider not reading on. I read everything cover to cover, just for the sake of it. A bit of OCD, yes. But it also took me a while to figure out that it’s o.k. to quit if this is not what you were looking for. Buying the book does not bind you to reading it. This finding saved me from Jane Eyre! To this very day, I am not loooking for clues why I should read on but rather those warning signals telling me to stop. If they are not there, I read on. So you better not bore me, describe physical torture in too much detail too early, write from the perspective of a dumb person not knowing how dumb she is, or bragg about the obvious. If you write a texbook, cite your sources and credit the people whose ideas you are using instead of showing off. I have probably read the original source, so you better deliver an original approach to it.
- The Story. There is a difference between just reading on and falling in love, and that happens in the story. Why I eventually fell for Harry Potter although I hesitated for years reading it at all? Because it is so rich of details and side stories, and they all fit and come together at the end! Characters, good and bad at the same time, not plain ideals of heros and villains. Plot twists, unexpected, but then again making perfect sense. And the language! Beautifully written, no swearing, references to the weirdest persons in history. I loved every single page. And I still re-read the books every now and then.
- The Ending. There are three types of endings:
- The crappy one. The one which ruins the whole story backwards. Like when a love story has no happy ending or the villain turns good for absolutely no reason whatsoever. An ending where you regret the time you spent to reach it, no matter how much you might have enjoyed the journey as such, as in Paula Hawking’s ‘Girl on the Train’. So much potential, screwed so thouroughly! .
- The ordinary one, such as in Jonas Jonasson’s ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’. An ending blending perfectly into the story, answering every single question, leaving you closing the book with a feeling of ‘well, that was nice, now it’s over, thank you, bye bye’. You forget it the minute you close the book.
- The non-ending. The one where it takes you days or weeks to re-enter reality. Where you are craving for more, not in the needy, addicted way but just because the whole story was talking to you, has meaning for you, changed the way you think or perceive the world. An ending which turns the story of somebody else into a story of your life. You might close the book, but you take the experience with you, grateful that you had it. True Love.
Now, there you go! Write books or ask me out.