Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reference question of the month: Judge a book by its what?

As a librarian, people of all kinds come to me and ask: what book should I read next? Often I give them Novelist or a subject guide on inspirational fiction, but not when people come in with assignments. Specifically, when there is not a specific book that they need to read but a book on a certain subject, say historical fiction, or asian recipes, or bears. In that case, I guide them to look with their eyes before they read one word. Now this is contrary to what I (and many others) were taught when they were young. And sure, I've found books that I was sure were chick lit only to find the were literary fiction, and I've found those that you were sure were historical but found out they were science fiction, but on the whole I can tell what a book is about based on the cover. Now this isn't to say that I won't like books with ugly covers, but what usually happens is I will read a book with a nice cover by the same author, then go and read his or her other works.

If you feel the same as me you may be inspired to read the following:

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
edited by Ben Karlin
I read this book before The Book Design Review named it one of the the top book covers of 2008. Its a series of essays written by the likes of Stephen Colbert, Bob Odenkirk, and Will Forte. If that sounds like a Comedy Central lineup, its because Karlin is a former executive producer of The Daily Show. My favorite essay is "Women are Never Too Young to Mess With Your Head", in which Larry Wilmore, who is currently serving as the "Senior Black Correspondent" on The Daily Show, describes his infant daughter's refusal to do anything but cry when her dad takes care of her, to the point where he has to hire a babysitter to watch her while he's there.

One Red Paperclip, or, How an ordinary man achieved his dreams with the help of a simple office supply
Kyle MacDonald
To be honest, I believe that I read this book after it was named by The Book Design Review as one of the top book covers of 2007. But it is still an amazing story. He blogged that he would trade a paperclip for anything. Someone offered a fish pen. The fish pen became a door knob, the door knob became a Coleman stove and so on and so forth until he got a whole house out of the deal! And checking on his website he is trading the house now!

Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
What struck me about this cover is not the almost bleakness of it, but the fact that the title of the book is almost a pun juxtaposed to the photo of him where he looks like he is falling down. In his interview on NPRs Fresh Air show, he conveyed how much of what he was doing when he first started stand up was not comedy, but more performance art. I think this cover conveys that.

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