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Thread: How to Tell A Good Book from a Bad One

  1. #1
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    How to Tell A Good Book from a Bad One

    I know this might sound crazy, but whenever I go into a bookstore and there's so many books to read, what I usually do is, instead of paying much attention to the reviews or synopses on the back, I read the opening sentence of the book. From that, I can tell if I want to read the book or not.

    This isn't exactly a technique, but do you ever find yourself judging a book not from its cover, but from its first line? The books I don't want to read, the mediocre books, usually have a bland opening like, "It was raining in [insert city name here]" and is usually some short, abrupt sentence which tries to grab your attention. Bad crime novels and thrillers and other "popular" genre books are often like that. Whatever happened to opening with something more witty, enticing, graceful, controlled, and at the same time, gripping and unexpected?

    For example, the novel which grabbed my attention from its first line and made me want to read it right away was Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

    Tell me that ain't cool!

  2. #2
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    My mom acutally does that a lot. She will read like the first paragrhap or so in a book if she is trying to decide on a book. There have been a couple of times when I have done that, if I was really indecisive about a book, and if either the back cover did not give much info of what the book was about, or if it like was one of those that just had me on the fence, I might open the book up to the first page.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Registered User Equality72521's Avatar
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    Ahaha. I read the little info on the back or inside the flap of the cover, read the first page, and then read the last sentence! lol.
    Little one, Fate might miscarry.
    Little one, why do you tarry?
    Little one, When May I marry you?
    My little one.

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    The first sentence can be a good indication of the writing, but some books start off fine and quickly deteriorate. But that shouldn't discourage you from your method.

  5. #5
    Registered User book_jones's Avatar
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    Yeah I always read the first few sentences when I'm looking at a book. I think that's a good technique.
    When the tupelo
    Goes poop-a-lo
    I'll come back to youp-a-lo

    - Kilgore Trout

  6. #6
    Registered User literaturerocks's Avatar
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    I usually flip through a few pages...read them, trying to get a feel for the book to see if I want to read it.
    "Life is a journey, not a destination"

    Currently Reading: Catcher In The Rye, Siddartha

  7. #7
    I likewise browse through the book,but I chiefly read the first page and subsequently the back page.By using this modus operandi,it's discernibly not precise.Sometimes reading reviews,synopses would be productive.

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    I always read the synopsis. Then, if I think it sounds interesting, I tend to skim over a couple of pages. I usually look over the middle of the book, though. I guess that is because I generally have a hard time getting into a book that I am just starting. They usually aren't all that interesting to me in the beginning. So rather than judging it from the first line, first paragraph or the first page, I choose something from the middle of the story. I think I do that because I figure that by that time the story has picked up and I can judge whether or not the writing sounds as if it would be worth my time.

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    I often feel uncomfortable reading without background on the author. Other than that, a wittily devised first sentence or a helpful back cover sometimes do the trick for me as well.

  10. #10
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    I first look to see if there is an introduction. Then I look to see if there is a preface. Then I look to see if there is any scholarship at all on the cover, such as blurbs. Then I wonder if I have heard of the author before, and check where exactly it was in the bookstore.

    Generally, if the cover is very elaborate, and in bad taste, the book is junk. Anything with two lovers on the cover is usually bad, and other symbols one encounters help add to classifying the book.

    The problem I think though, is I don't tend to buy novels, and for poetry I usually read 20-30 pages in the store, some times being 1/3 the volume's length.

  11. #11
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I read the blurb/synopsis, then read the first paragraph to see if I like the writing style

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    I would see if the books get any awards or whether I like the authors. Does the cover help? Usaually, a good edition with good paper and design would make you more likely to buy it because it can at least be great decoration to your bookselves but not too fancy though.

  13. #13
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I usually look at the cover: whether it's a poetic cover. Good books mostly have not a very elaborate cover, they usually stay simple. Then I look at contents on the back and then, if I don't know the author I usually read the first sentence, or even better I just open the book randomly and see whether the author kept up his good writing style he displayed in the first sentence.

    I don't think there is any harm in starting with a short sentence, but if you keep it going, it gets on the readers' nerves...
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    Wandering Child Annamariah's Avatar
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    I wouldn't judge a book by its cover - often the author doesn't even have a say about the cover of the book. (Though I admit that the cover is the first thing one sees and if the cover doesn't catch my eye, it might be that I'll never look at the book any closer.)

    I usually read the synopsis and then a bit from the beginning. From a bookshop I never buy books at random (from a flea market or a recycling center I might, because they're so cheap, sometimes just 1 percent of the price in a bookstore). When I pick up random books to read, I do it in library, which is free, so it doesn't matter if the book isn't very good after all. In that case I don't have to worry about losing any money and I don't have to finish reading it unless I want to.
    Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing. Her hair was golden as the sun's rays and her soul as clear and blue as her eyes.
    Gaston Leroux - The Phantom of the Opera

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    Registered User idiosynchrissy's Avatar
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    I generally read the synopsis and then if that sounds good, I will open it up to a random place around the center of the book and read a few lines. If it still sounds like something I might like, I will give it a shot.

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