Friday, June 14, 2013

Dust Jacket, Is It Helpful?

I have always been a reader of dust jackets and back covers of books. I have liked getting a sense of what the book might be about to see if it might interest me.

Therapist is a believer in not reading the dust jacket or back cover to decide if she's going to read a book or not. She looks at the title, the cover, and reads the first line or first page to see if she's drawn in. She believes that the editorial comments on the dust jacket or back cover may misrepresent the book or maybe even worse, tell too much about the book.

With these books, I have to agree with her.

iconI've been a Norah Vincent fan ever since her first book, SELF-MADE MANicon in which she chronicles her experience of dressing like a man and living in the world as a man. (Read my blog post about that most excellent book here:

With THY NEIGHBORicon, even as I was reading the dust jacket, I knew it was telling too much of the story. I knew that this was a book I wanted to read without knowing much. But one can't unsee what one has seen, or unread what one has read. I read the book anyway and did really like it, but wished I'd just read it without reading the dust jacket.

THY NEIGHBORicon is Vincent's first foray into fiction. Nick Walsh lives alone in the house he grew up in. Nick tries to deal with his issues, or rather NOT deal with his issues by drinking and using drugs. He also spies on his neighbors. Intense, a little creepy, and well done.

iconI picked this up after reading a recommendation by Gillian Flynn, who said she rereads this book at least once a year. She praised its tight storytelling and plot development. You may have seen the 1998 movie of this story. I didn't read the back cover, nor had I seen the movie, and I was glad to be able to experience the novel without input from the movie or the back cover. Gillian Flynn's praise was more about the writing style and less about describing the story itself, which is a good way to praise a book. I was quickly drawn into the story, told by Hank, as he, his brother, and his brother's friend make a discovery and make a decision about what to do about it. A Simple Plan. A plan which, as you can imagine, becomes anything but simple. Well-crafted story-telling makes this a great read.

Looking for something to read, I picked up this advance reader copy that Therapist received from librarything. There was a letter from the editor, giving a brief synopsis of the book and the publisher's encouragement to read it. I did not read this letter before I read the book.

I liked the title a lot. The title implies that there is an "us" to chronicle, which intrigued me. However, there wasn't enough in the beginning of the book to make their friendship believable in the first place, so when troubles came, supposedly in the friendship, I kept wondering why the book was supposed to be about their friendship and not just about one of the girls. Also, towards the end of the book Rebecca, the narrator, says, "but you'll want to know how I ended up with your father," which seemed to come out of the blue to me...oh, she's writing to her child? And yes, I had expected that she got married, but before this reference, there is NO reference to this future spouse. I think the book would have been much stronger had it been just Rebecca's story. That would necessitate a new title (and I like this title, just maybe not for this book). I was disappointed.

Would reading the dust jacket have helped (had I had one to read)? It's hard to imagine that a dust jacket description could have (or should have) redeemed this book for me.

I read about this on a booksellers' brief Facebook page, written by someone I didn't know. I'd never heard of it before. The person said that one of the reasons they liked it so well was because of the unique voice of the narrator - an imaginary friend.

I bought MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIENDicon without reading the back cover or knowing anything else about it. When I started reading it, I was immediately drawn in as Budo told the story of how he came to be, and about his friend, Max. Budo's voice was unique and engaging, similar to Enzo in THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, or Mathilda in MATHILDA SAVITCH. Worth reading!

I still often read dust jackets and back covers. But sometimes I find myself taking a page out of Therapist's playbook, bypassing the dust jacket and relying on the writing of the book itself, and reading the first page or few pages to see if I am drawn in.

How about you?


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