Sunday, February 7, 2016

Which Words in Blurbs Attract You to a Book?

I’ve written before that certain words in book reviews and book blurbs attract me, and certain others are almost always deal-breakers for me. I imagine you have the same experience with blurbs. Here’s an example of words used in a full-page ad for the novel “The Vegetarian,” by Han Kang (I saw it in The New York Times Book Review, 2/7/16, p. 5). I don’t know anything else about the book than what I saw in the ad, which contained blurbs from various authors. The words in the blurbs that were positive for me: beautiful, unsettling, terrific, complex, scarily familiar, incredible, stunningly moving, searing, painfully tender. The words in the ad that turned my interest off, at least to some extent: violence, terrifying, surrealism, Kafka, strange. Of course if I read an actual review, or leaf through the book at a bookstore or library, I will have a better sense of the balance of these elements, and a better sense of whether it is a book I might want to read. (P.S. After I wrote this, I noticed that there is a review of the book later in the same issue of The New York Times Book Review. I read the review, and it sounds well written, powerful, and very depressing. I think it might be the kind of book I would admire but not enjoy.)
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