Weekly Geeks: Shiny book syndrome

Having spent what seems like years (but it can't be) reading "Weekly Geeks" posts on various blogs I subscribe to, I thought I would give it a go, and so subscribed to the Weekly Geeks blog. Even so, I seem to have missed this (last) week's assignment, which is about "shiny book syndrome". [No 24, 2010.]

SBS, writes Tara SG, is "when a person only wants to read their newest book and leave piles of poor unread books on their shelves to collect dust.What can you do to alleviate the symptoms?" Her solution is a mixture of spreadsheet and undertaking specific reading challenges.

Mine? Well, I have to confess I don't suffer from the syndrome exactly. Although I do have several hundred 
Hyland ukbooks on my shelves to read (literally), I'm just as happy to read a blank-covered proof copy, a second-hand mass-market paperback, or (shuddering slightly) one with a glossy bloody hand on the cover. To me, I read the book independently of looking at it, and relatively independently of when I obtained it – though the books I acquire as a result of reading blog reviews do tend to have shorter lead-in times. 

I have a school exercise book in which I write down each book as I've read it, with a code M, F, D, T, which stands for male, female, debut, translated. I like to even up these categories over a year or so, so each quarter I add up the numbers (writing a blog post about it) and if there are too many in one of the four categories I will prioritise some from the other categories to read next. (I have plenty of options in all four!)

Sometimes I am given books, either by Karen of Euro Crime to review for her website, or by publishers. I try to prioritise those according to their publication dates (if I have actually asked for the book from the publisher, if I haven't it is in the same queue as the others).

Recently, I have read Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland, a proof with a blank, monotone cover. I loved it, and even though I would love to have read the actual UK edition with the beautiful blue cover, I would not (could not) have enjoyed the contents any more than I did. When I read The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, I was a bit disappointed to be reading the US edition instead of the UK edition as I love the Picador covers of this series. But again, it made no difference to my enjoyment of the book itself. And 
Sphinxby one of those strange coincidences, I passed on the US edition after I had read it, and a week or two later the publisher kindly sent me the UK edition directly! I'm very lucky.

So, in conclusion, I am conscious of the cover of a book and I do very much like to read a book that has a cover I like, even if the appearance has no effect on when I choose to read the title, or how much I enjoy what lies between the covers.

(This is a "weekly and a half geek" post, I reckon.) 

6 thoughts on “Weekly Geeks: Shiny book syndrome

  1. Though I love beautiful covers, I don´t pick my next read based on its looks, either. I do admit that I often choose my latest acquisitions rather than ones that have been left on my shelf for a few months, though.

  2. Maxine – You are a woman after my own heart. I really don’t go by covers, either. In fact, some of the best reading I’ve ever done was books that had plain “manuscript” covers – no artwork at all. It really doesn’t matter in terms of quality of book. Perhaps it does in terms of people’s willingness to pick up a book in a bookshop, though. Not being a marketer, I’m not an expert in that….

  3. Thanks, Margot and Dorte. I’m the same with illustrations, too – at work we are always creating ever-more beautiful pages for our magazine content, but although I am lost in admiration at beautiful graphics etc (which also tell a scientific story) I’m just as happy to read the words with no reference to a picture — usually. Unless the pic really does help to explain some complicated prose.

  4. LOL Maxine, I can honestly say I never choose what book to read by its cover either, I too have plenty of uncorrected proofs with plain covers and audio books that I download have nothing at all to cover. To me reading fiction is all about the words. Especially now that I have such a long list of books I know I want to read based on your reviews (or other people’s) and my own experience and because I do most of my acquiring via online stores or swap sites I rarely even see what cover the book has until it arrives. Like most of my pre-orders the Adrian Hyland book had no cover image when I ordered it so I had no idea I would end up with the quite lovely blue cover – I have to say though that it did the job for one friend of mine who I talked to about the book but she wasn’t that keen to read it until I showed it to her and she said “oh what a lovely cover”. I think the book cover is really aimed at the occasional reader and bookshop browser and I am neither of those things these days.
    As you know though I do like a nice chart or graph to spice up my facts and figures 🙂

  5. I firmly believe that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” I, too, would read a compelling book no matter the cover and a nice cover in a bookstore won’t pull me in, unless I’m already interested in the book from reading reviews, blogposts, friends’ recommendations or awards’ nominations or prizes.
    By the way, am reading the beautiful “Gunshot Road,” and far from racing through it like I do with thrillers or detective stories, I am reading slowly, savoring every carefully-crafted sentence and thought. (The cover does not compel me whatever; it’s the writing, the sense of place, the characters, the ideas. Oh, and did I mention the writing?)

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