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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Judge a Book by Page 69

We’ve all heard the adage about not judging a book by its cover.  So how do you decide if a book will interest you?

Well, you could start reading it.  The first chapter is designed as the hook.  It’s the part of the book that almost certainly went to the publisher first.  The problem is that the opening doesn’t always give you a good feel for the book as a whole.  I can’t begin to count how many books I’ve read where the introduction piqued my interest but then it quickly waned thereafter. 

Recommendations from friends are often a good indication as to whether you will enjoy a book.  The caveat is that you need to have similar reading tastes or that word-of-mouth suggestion has little value. 

Personally, I like reading book reviews.  They often help me decide if I want to make a purchase or borrow from the library.  Of course, I’d like to think that some of you use Schatje’s reviews posted on this blog to help you add to your to-read pile. 

If you haven’t tried it, there is the page 69 test.  Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, academic, and prophet of the modern media age, had a theory:   read page 69. If you like it, then chances are you'll like the rest of the book too.  The idea is that page 69 gives you the chance to see the story in the early stages of its full flow:  a bit of action without any spoilers.

Try it for yourself.  Grab a book you’ve already read and see if page 69 would have grabbed your attention.  Then the next time you are considering a book, carry out a similar experiment.  I think it’s a great way to discover new books and authors in a brief but surprising encounter.