Sunday, March 30, 2014

New & Novel: Legal Matters

Criminal trials, like that of George Zimmerman, meet the public’s desire to see justice done, and even for retribution. But the ability to observe the process is essential: “It is not enough to say that results alone will satiate the natural community desire for ‘satisfaction.’ A result considered untoward may undermine public confidence, and where the trial has been concealed from public view, an unexpected outcome can cause a reaction that the system, at best, has failed, and, at worst, has been corrupted.”
~Lynn Oberlander, "Why We Had a Right to Watch the Zimmerman Trial"

Amanda Knox. Jodi Arias. Oscar Pistorius. If you've checked the headlines recently, you've heard the names, perhaps read about their court cases. It's hardly the first time famous trials have made the news - how about the Harry Thaw Trials, the Scopes Trial, Nuremberg, O. J. Simpson, Casey Anthony? Perhaps, as the Lynn Oberlander quote suggests, we follow famous trials to observe the process or to assure ourselves that justice is done.  Whatever your reason,  if you enjoy reading about legal matters, we have a list of recent titles that might be right up your alley, discussing famous trials, legal wrangles, and the law.

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind and Changed the History of Free Speech in America by Thomas Healy

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale

A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, A Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II by Eric Jaffe

The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruption by Laurence Leamer  

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball

Duel With the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach

The Good Guys, The Bad Guys and The First Amendment: Free Speech Vs. Fairness in Broadcasting by Fred Friendly [eBook]

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court by Sandra Day O'Connnor 

Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works...and Sometimes Doesn't by Mark Geragos [eBook]

Find more items about legal matters in the catalog with a subject search using the word "Trials", "Legal", or "Law". 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Packaged Books: What Are They?

In the publishing world, there are book packaging companies, who will come up with an idea for a novel and then hire authors or ghostwriters to write the book, following the book packaging company’s guidelines (see the blog Scott Reads It and the article “Book Packaging: Under-explored Terrain for Freelancers” by Jenna Glatzer for in-depth definitions of book packaging). Is book packaging a big deal? Should it be a big deal? It depends, and if you Google “packaged books,” you’ll find a wide range of views on the subject. Young adult books are often written by authors hired by book packaging companies. Some examples of young adult packaged books are below.

Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
How do you know if a book is a packaged book? Check the copyright. If the copyright belongs to a company instead of the author, it’s probably a packaged book.
Publishing is a competitive world. Writing for a book packaging company might be easier for authors than trying to get published in a more traditional way. This isn’t usually a problem, but there have been two cases in which book packaging companies have received negative press.
In 2011, L.J. Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries series was fired from writing the book series. The Vampire Diaries is a packaged book series, created by the company Alloy. When Smith didn’t want to take the series in the direction Alloy wanted her to, she was fired.
James Frey’s book packaging company, Full Fathom Five, has also received negative press for the terms authors must agree to when signing on with his company, as outlined in an online article published by New York Magazine. The terms included, but were not limited to:
·         Authors would receive $250 for books completed and delivered during a specific timeframe.
·         Authors would receive 30 percent of the revenue generated by the project (40 percent if the idea was originally the author’s instead of Frey’s).
·         Authors would not own the copyright to the book but would be held financially responsible for any legal action taken against the book.
·         Authors would receive a $50,000 penalty if they publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.
·         Full Fathom Five could use authors’ names or pseudonyms without an author’s permission, regardless if the author was still involved with the series.
With so many publishing avenues available to authors, does it matter for readers if a book is self-published, traditionally published, or a packaged book? From what I’ve read on blogs, most people don’t seem to care where their books come from, though there are some people who are trying to boycott James Frey’s packaging company.

For the most part, I don’t care where my books come from. I have read and loved self-published books, packaged books, and traditionally published books. Though I am not a James Frey fan, I have read two of the books published by his book packaging company. I liked one, but did not like the other. If a book has a good story and is well-written, I’ll read it.

Do you care where your books come from, or will you read book regardless of how they're published?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Literary Links: Test Your Mettle

Here at abcreads, we love a challenge. Curiosity killed the cat and we want to know what the cat wanted to know! We like finding the answers to all kinds of questions, even if it's just "How well do you know the lands of The Lord of the Rings?" In that vein, here are some literary links to challenge your mind, whether it's by determining which character you would get if you crossed Mark Darcy and the Vampire Lestat, or with an app to get you speed-reading.

Literary Death Match [NPR]
"Picture this, a group of writers - quiet, bookish, solitary - duking it out in a fight to the death. That's the idea behind Literary Death Match, a performance series that pits authors against each other - not physically but through readings from their own books."
Character Math [Book Riot]
"What literary character is the result of the following equation?"

Opening Sentences from Great Novels, Diagrammed [Open Culture]
The author has never understood sentence diagramming. How about you?

Read a novel in 80 minutes? There's an app for that [CBC News]
"If you've always wanted to read War and Peace, but thought you'd need to be some sort of superhero speedreader to make it through Tolstoy's lengthy tome, then a new app might offer you a sense of hope."

25 Bookish Quizzes [Book Riot]
What's Your Reading Personality? What Literary Character Are You? Can You Name The Books From Their Closing Lines?

Book Quizzes [The Guardian]
Quizzes include: Food in Fiction; How much do you know about James Bond creator Ian Fleming?; Fantasy teen fiction; Raymond Chandler.

Reading Bingo Challenge [Retreat by Random House]
"We’ve created a printable bingo card with 24 reading challenges! Join us and challenge yourself to read more, to read more widely and to have fun doing it all!"

Monday, March 24, 2014

More to the Story: Famous Novels Retold, Famous Characters Reimagined

Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.
~Umberto Eco

In addition to rewriting the story from a different character's perspective, sometimes authors like to rewrite the story in a different time period or place. Perrault's fairy tales transplanted to India? Plot devices from E. M. Forster adapted into a story of New England academia? Nathaniel Hawthorne set in the dystopian future? Here's a list of some titles in the library catalog that not only revisit some classic stories, but reimagines them in a completely different time and/or locale.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [Snow White]

On Beauty by Zadie Smith [Howards End]

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey [Jane Eyre]

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin [Alice in Wonderland]

Havisham by Ronald Frame [Great Expectations]

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan [The Scarlet Letter]

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey [fairy tales]

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly [fairy tales]

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham et al. [fairy tales]

Betwixt and Between by Jessica Stilling [Peter Pan]

The Innocents by Francesca Segal [The Age of Innocence]

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley [King Lear]

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones [Great Expectations]

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick [The Ambassadors]

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski [Hamlet]

Last Orders by Graham Swift [As  I Lay Dying]

Delphine by Richard Sala [Snow White

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher ; inspired by the work of George Lucas and William Shakespeare

Once Upon a Time Machine edited by Andrew Carl [fairy tales]

Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation by Tim Manley [fairy tales]

Young Adult

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson [fairy tales]

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor [Alice in Wonderland]

Nameless: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow [Snow White]

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan [Sleeping Beauty]

Going Bovine by Libba Bray [Don Quixote]

Railsea by China Miéville [Moby Dick]


Blancanieves [Snow White]

Shakespeare Retold [various plays]

Coriolanus [Coriolanus]

Much Ado About Nothing [Much Ado About Nothing]

Grimm ["Brother and Sister", from The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales]


The Austen Project

Canongate Myths Series

The Hogarth Shakespeare

Friday, March 21, 2014

New & Novel: Religion & Spirituality for Adults & Youth

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
 ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Sometimes it pays just to slow down and look around.  We spend so much time rushing around from A to B and back again in our own little bubble of home and work, sometimes without taking a moment to stop, take in the world around us, and breathe. Interested in slowing down your hectic pace and looking for deeper meaning? Here are a list of books for all ages that inquire about the nature of different religions and encourage a spiritual practice. Take one home today! Bring one home to read with the little ones!

For Adults

Living With a Wild God: A Memoir by Barbara Ehrenreich

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott

A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho A. Tutu

The Religions Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by contributors Shulamit Ambalu, Michael Coogan, Eve Levavi Feinstein, et al.

And Then There Were Nuns: Adventures in a Cloistered Life by Jane Christmas

The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever by Adam Leith Gollner

The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic by John Shelby Spong

God in Proof: The Story of a Search, From the Ancients to the Internet by Nathan Schneider

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind by Pema Chodron

For Youth

Believe by Sarah Aronson

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia
Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond

The Oldest Bedtime Story Ever by Benjamin Morse

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman

Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan

Inspired by articles published in Booklist magazine from November 2013.   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Seed Library!

One of the latest things that ABC Library is proud to bring you is our new seed library.  The collection of seeds to borrow on your library card will be available at the Juan Tabo branch, and you can begin checking out seed packets starting on March 22.

What is a seed library?  How can someone "borrow" seeds?  At our seed library a library patron can check out up to 15 packages of seeds on their library card.  The checkout is good for one year.  Over that year you can grow your borrowed seeds in your garden and extract seeds from the new plant, which you can then return to the library.  If you already have a green thumb, this is a great way to pick up some new vegetables and herbs you've never tried growing before.  For those of us who are beginners in gardening, this is a great opportunity to learn some skills by trying to grow some "easy" seeds, like tomatoes.  A list of all the seeds that will available for checkout is on our catalog.

Join us at Juan Tabo for our kick-off event on March 22.  You can ask questions about our seeds, meet other gardeners, and of course, pick out some seeds to borrow!  Find out the latest news about the seed library on

You can also check out these books about gardening and seed saving for an idea of what seeds you might want to borrow.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Growing, Seed Saving, and Cultural History by William Woys Weaver

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees, and Shrubs by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough

The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray

Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers From Small Spaces by Gayla Trail

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Judging Books Based on Their Covers Part 3: Same Book, Different Cover

It's not unusual for books to have multiple covers. Often, a hardcover version of a book will have a different cover from the paperback version. Books that are published in more than one country also often have different covers. Updated editions or newer editions of books might also get a new cover treatment. Does this matter when it comes to deciding to read a book based on its cover? It might.

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

The image on the left is the cover for the hardback copy of The Disenchantments. The second image, which is from Goodreads, is of the paperback. I don't find either cover to be too appealing, but if I had to read this book based only on its cover, I would read it based on the paperback cover, not hardback cover.

The first image again is for the hardback cover. The second image, which is also from Goodreads, is for the paperback cover. I don't like the hardback cover, but I love the paperback cover.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

This time, the first image is for the paperback cover, and the second image is for the hardback cover. Leverage is one of my favorite books, but I don't like either cover. If I had to read it based only on the cover, I'd pick the paperback cover. I don't feel like either cover represents the book as well as they could, but the hardback cover seems less representative of the book to me.

The Shining by Stephen King

Both images for The Shining are from Goodreads. The image on the left is the mass market paperback edition published by Anchor in 2012. The image on the right is the mass market paperback edition published by Signet in 1978. Over the years, The Shining has received multiple cover treatments. Goodreads has a good list of the different editions with the different covers. Based on these two covers though, I would read The Shining because of the cover on the left. It's more intriguing and terrifying than the cover on the right.

Do you read books based on their covers? When it comes to buying books, do you pick which edition to buy based on the cover?

Friday, March 14, 2014

International Pi Day

March 14 (3.14) marks International Pi Day.  A day to celebrate the mathematical constant of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Pi is approximately 3.14159, but continues indefinitely without repetition or pattern, and is an irrational and transcendental number.  It has been calculated to over a trillion digits past the decimal.

Fun Fact: March 14 is also Einstein's birthday.  Instead of celebrating with the traditional cake, we recommend celebrating with pi(zza) and/or pi(e).

Here's a general rubric for a fruit pie from the Kitchn:

Pie Crust (store bought, homemade, whatever you prefer and time allows)
4-6 cups chopped fruit
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch (or other thickener, i.e. flour, quick cooking tapioca)
1/2 cup brown or white sugar
Lemon zest from 1 lemon and some juice if you like
Pinch of salt
1/2- 2 teaspoons spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves; whatever fits your fancy)
1 tablespoon butter

Line pie plate with crust.  If you don't have a pie plate, directions are below.

Combine the filling ingredients, except for the butter, and place in crust.  Top with butter.

Top with second crust, a crumble or streusel topping, depending on personal preference.

Bake at 400* for 40 minutes, or until bubbly.  You may want to put aluminum foil around the edge for the first 20 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too brown.

No pie plate modification: You can make this without a pie plate, just call it a "rustic fruit tart".  You'll need only 1 crust.

Roll the crust out on a cookie sheet.

Make the filling, but use 4 cups of fruit instead of 6.  Mound in the middle of the crust.  Fold the edges in and  partially over the fruit.  Top with butter.  Bake at 350* for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Cool and Enjoy!

Cookbooks featuring pies can be found in the Non-Fiction section under number 641.8.  Books about Pi can be found in Non-Fiction under number 512 for Juvenile and Adult.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shifted Perspectives

Now, adaptation, cross-pollination and flat out stealing are nothing new in the literary world — after all, Madame Bovary was heavily influenced by Don Quixote, Finnegans Wake was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre. And those are just a few sterling examples — the trend of adaptation and re-adaptation is rampant, and sadly, there are plenty of cheap reincarnations of classic texts that put their inspirations to shame.
~Emily Temple, "10 Contemporary Novels Based on Classic Lit That Are Actually Worth Your Time

The publication of Longbourn, the novel by Jo Baker which retells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants,  got us thinking about other novels that retell a story.  Wide Sargasso Sea retells the story of Jane Eyre from the point of view of the "madwoman in the attic", Bertha Rochester (born Antoinette Cosway). The Mists of Avalon retells the Arthurian legend from the point of view of the female characters, primarily Morgaine (Morgan le Fay), Arthur's half-sister.

In these "shifted perspective" novels, the traditional protagonist is no longer in the limelight, and the story is retold through the eyes of another (many novels are also reinterpreted by changing the time in which the stories happen, but that's the subject of another blog post). We find these revisited stories interesting because, in the right hands, the changed viewpoint takes the reader in new and interesting directions, including calling into question the reliability of the original novel's narrator.

Despite some wrangles with the estates of the authors of the original novels (in the case of Lolita and The Lord of the Rings), we are seeing more and more retold classics with shifted perspectives. Here are some you can find in the library catalog:

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Ahab's Wife, or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund

Finn by Jon Clinch

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

March by Geraldine Brooks

Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher by Lenore Hart

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein by Dave Zeltserman

Adèle: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant

Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman      

Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein [YA]


"10 Shifted Perspective Novels I Would Totally Read" 

"Make lit new: Are retold tales a new fad or the latest incarnation of a rich tradition?"  

"Middle-earth according to Mordor"

"Pact Reached on U.S. Edition of  'Lolita' Retelling"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Reviews and Plot Twists: Friends or Foes?

Here at abcreads, we're always on the lookout for new books, and reviews can be helpful and hurtful in the search for our next read. Why? Book spoilers. For those of us who enjoy the element of surprise or like to discover the culprit on our own, plot summaries in reviews sometimes tell us more than we want to know. Recently, the Washington Post's fiction editor, Ron Charles, wrote about the dilemma of how much to reveal when writing a book review (spoiler alert! don't read this if you want to stay in the dark about Boy, Snow, Bird). In it, he contemplates the questions: How much is too much? Does revealing a plot twist enhance or hurt the reader experience?

Plot twists can break our hearts, blow our minds, and cause us to question everything we've read in the last 300 or so pages. All-in-all, they give us the irreplaceable feeling of "what just happened?!" If you enjoy a well-crafted plot twist (and haven't already heard about these endings), here are some of our suggestions:

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (ebook)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (ebook)

Atonement by Ian McEwan (ebook)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Science Corner: Recommended Reads

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.
 ― Albert Einstein

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
― Carl Sagan  

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.
 ― Stephen Hawking 

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
― Douglas Adams

Here are some of the favorite science reads of library staff.  Feel free to let us know your recommendations in the comments!

Incomplete Nature begins by accepting what other theories try to deny: that, although mental contents do indeed lack these material-energetic properties, they are still entirely products of physical processes and have an unprecedented kind of causal power that is unlike anything that physics and chemistry alone have so far explained. Paradoxically, it is the intrinsic incompleteness of these semiotic and teleological phenomena that is the source of their unique form of physical influence in the world. Incomplete Nature meticulously traces the emergence of this special causal capacity from simple thermodynamics to self-organizing dynamics to living and mental dynamics, and it demonstrates how specific absences (or constraints) play the critical causal role in the organization of physical processes that generate these properties. [from the publisher]

The Higgs boson is one of our era’s most fascinating scientific frontiers and the key to understanding why mass exists. The most recent book on the subject, The God Particle, was a bestseller. Now, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll documents the doorway that is opening—after billions of dollars and the efforts of thousands of researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland—into the mind-boggling world of dark matter. The Particle at the End of the Universe has it all: money and politics, jealousy and self-sacrifice, history and cutting-edge physics—all grippingly told by a rising star of science writing. 

A rising star in theoretical physics offers his awesome vision of our universe and beyond, all beginning with a simple question: Why does time move forward?

Love and Math tells the two intertwined stories of mathematics and the adventure of one man in learning it. The result is a story about how he became one of the twenty-first century's leading mathematicians, working on one of the biggest ideas to come out of mathematics in the last 50 years: the Langlands Program. As Frenkel proves, a mathematical formula can be as elegant and beautiful as a painting, a poem, or a piece of music. And the process of creating new mathematics is just that, an artistic pursuit--a deeply personal experience, which requires passion, dedication, and love. In Love and Math, Frenkel shows readers the aesthetic--and the truly powerful--side of mathematics, and enables appreciation of the field even from those who have long been terrified by it.

Book descriptions are taken from the catalog unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Biography for Book Lovers

For avowed bookworms, the next best thing to a shiny new paperback is a lively conversation with a fellow reader about the books they love -- and hate. The best of both worlds can be found in the reading memoirs we've rounded up here, in which bibliophiles share the books that shaped them.
~Joanna Scutts, "Read Me Like a Book: 7 Must-Read Memoirs for Book Lovers"

Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran is a classic of this genre - a tale that intertwines memoir with a discussion of literature. In Nafisi's cases, this "memoir in books" was a recounting of gatherings with her former students to talk about literature forbidden by a a repressive regime.  These gatherings became "forum[s] to learn to speak freely, not only about literature, but also about the social, political, and cultural realities of living under strict Islamic rule". Not all these memoirs carry such a weighty message - one celebrates father-daughter "reading-out-loud sessions every night before bed"; another is an account of a life of collecting books and setting up bookstores; another is a response to one author's writing crisis; yet another is an account of a quest to read the entire 50-volume set of the Harvard Classics. As Anna Quindlen says in How Reading Changed My Life,  “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

The Novel Cure: From Abandoment to Zestlessness - 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley

What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Jo Walton

The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else by Christopher R. Beha

Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry  

Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Romance is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love At Last by Patience Bloom

How Literature Saved My Life by by David Shields

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates [eBook]

Judging a Book By Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto

Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts by William H. Gass

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith     

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Judging Books Based on Their Covers Part Two: When the Cover Doesn't Match the Story

Last week, I took a look at different books that have the same covers. This week, I'm taking a look at two book covers that for me, don't match the story because they don't do a good job portraying what the book is about.

First up is Panic by Lauren Oliver.

I like this cover. But when I look at it, it doesn't give me any kind of idea what the book is about. The summary of the book is: "In the poor town of Carp, New York, a group of teens enters a high-stakes game that involves a series of secretive, possibly deadly challenges throughout the summer, with the winner receiving more than $50,000--enough money to start a new life."

For me, the cover doesn't indicate anything about fear--the girl on the cover doesn't look particularly scared, and I would never guess that she's participating in a possibly deadly game.

Next up: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.

This cover doesn't do anything for the book. I talked to a bookseller recently about how bad the cover is, and we wondered why the publisher thought it would appeal to readers. A colleague of mine and I also talked about it, and while I think the cover indicates that the book takes place by a beach, my colleague said the cover makes her think of a desert. To be fair, I've read the book and my colleague hasn't, which is why I look at the sand on the cover and think beach (the book takes place in Aruba). The handcuffs covered in sand and the flower do seem a little strange, and definitely don't convey what the book is really about.

In talking about Dangerous Girls, my colleague and I also looked at the UK and German covers, as well as the paperback cover for the U.S. edition.

The first image is of the UK edition and was found on Goodreads. This cover doesn't describe the book at all. It's a pretty cover; I love the colors. But shards of glass? That has nothing to do with the book.

The second image is of the German edition and was found on the author's Twitter account. Again, it's pretty, and I like how it incorporates the beach but in a creepy way (unlike the cover with the handcuffs in the sand). What I'm not sure about with this cover is the girl--why is her hair covering her face? Does this make her more creepy or less creepy? I feel like it's supposed to be symbolic of something, but I can't quite figure out what.

The third image is of the U.S. paperback edition and was also found on the author's Twitter account. My colleague and I agreed that this was the best cover, as it's more obvious that the book is about a dead girl. My colleague also liked the font and color used for the book's title on this cover. It's girly, but also hints at something a bit more sinister, which is perfect for what this book is about.

Book covers can set the tone and mood for a book is about, and when the cover doesn't do a good job of conveying these things, it might mean it's not doing a good job conveying what a book is actually about.

Like I did with Dangerous Girls, Judging a Book Based on Their Covers Part Three will focus on different covers of the same books.