7 Great Ways To Judge A Book

by Alex Weiss

Remember the good ‘ol days when the school librarian would tilt her thick glasses down while pointing her long nails at you and screech, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!”? Yeah, me too. Our librarians, although sometimes strict and terrifying, were ultimately right. Book covers are made to sell, and generally the author doesn’t have much of a say in the final product. Most editors and designers know what they’re doing, but book covers can often be misleading.

Grabbing a book off of the shelf because of the colors and unique typefaces, whether it’s a piece of art or the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen, doesn’t tell much of anything about the contents inside. The good news is you picked it up — but now what? Even if you’re on a spontaneous book buying spree, I want you to pause, breathe, and make sure this book is worth your time. You’re a strong, independent reader, and you deserve to find an amazing novel. Don’t forget that.

There are plenty of ways to judge a book besides its cover. So before dropping $20, or spending numerous hours of precious reading time on something that just isn’t good, take a few minutes to examine what you can. Next time you head into your local bookstore or sift through the Kindle e-shelves, start judging books based on these tips, and you’ll be set on finding your next favorite read.

The Pick Up Line

First things first: read the first line and only the first line. Read it like a pick-up line — does it make you want to whisk it off the shelves and take it out to dinner? Possibly even a movie? Maybe snuggle up with it in bed? If the voice overtakes you, or even excites you enough to want to read the second line and spend more time with it, it’s a good sign you should begin planning a couple dates with it.

Summarize Second

After you read the first line, flip over the book and check out the summary. Yes, it may seem odd to read the back of the book after the first line, but reading reading a summed up version of a 350-page novel in combination with knowing what the voice of the story is will let you know if this book is potentially for you. Now, if there isn’t some new concept or intriguing aspect to it for you, toss it aside and move on to the next book that sparks your interest.

The Trusty Book Bloggers

Lucky for us, there are hundreds of book bloggers providing excellent literary reviews for no cost at all. Go read places like Book Riot and Bookslut (OH AND BUSTLE, DUH), which all offer thoughtful and honest insights on just about every book worth reading. My No. 1 tip on finding a trustworthy blogger is to find their review on a book you already love, or loathe, and see what they have to say. If you agree with her, you just may have found your book review soulmate.

Word of Mouth (or Text)

If you’re hesitant about buying a new book for any reason at all, check out other readers' opinions (in person or online) — bookstore employees, GoodReads, and Amazon are all great places to start. There are plenty of other opinions to gather before deciding on your next book purchase. The best way to find out if a book is what you’re looking for is to ask questions: Is there a love triangle that you really don’t care to read about? Will there be an exciting twist no one sees coming? Are you up for a big world building adventure? Ask away!

Become Friendly With the Author

Well, not really. But do look up her other books if she has any, and try a quick Google search to read up on the author and her recent interviews. If she's a first time writer, don’t back away — get excited about potentially discovering a new voice. Check out the author’s Twitter and Facebook, maybe a Tumblr if she has one. If she writes funny tweets or shares links you like, you just might like her book.

Check Out the Publisher

Look up the publisher. Bigger houses like Penguin and Scholastic already have a great reputation, sure, but what happens when that little icon on the spine of the book isn’t familiar? Look it up, and you might be surprised by what you find — there are so many great small presses that publish books you're going to fall in love with. If, upon a search, you discover lots of unread titles you'd be interested in, or, surprise!, there are multiple books by them that you’ve already read and adore, there's a good chance you might like the one in your hands.

Take the Leap

OK, sure, I've said a few things here, but I'm going to be honest: the best way to judge a book is to read the entire thing. You picked it up for a reason, and if one of these tips worked for you, take it home. Read it front to back. Dog-eared or bookmarked. In the park or in bed. Under the moon or during sunrise. Read it all... and judge the book later.

Images: Giphy (8)