When judging a book by its cover pays off

In addition to seeing a handful of tweets about book covers this week, I got an email from a friend about a great book cover, and overheard a conversation in a local book store about whether it was worth buying an unknown book based on the cover alone. All of which got me thinking of my (current) favourite book cover:

 

NightCircus

 

An amazing, creative cover for an amazing, creative book!

 

 

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Emily Bronte – 1; Lindsay – 0

WutheringHeights

After close to 15 years of trying on and off, I finally gave up on reading Wuthering Heights.

Usually, no matter how hard/boring/pointless I’m finding a book, I power through. It takes quite the book to make me give up entirely, but Emily Bronte did it.

I have cracked open the cover of Wuthering Heights a number of times, but just can’t get through more than about 110 pages. I don’t know if it’s the characters that I don’t connect with, the prose that I can’t get my head around, or the pacing that I find too slow. Whatever it is, it combines to produce an unreadable book for me. (And just to be sure, I’ve even tried to watch the movie. Not happening.)

And so Wuthering Heights has officially been moved from my “to be read” shelf, to my “to be donated” box. It’s humbling to be taken down by a book that most people polished off in high school.

What books have bested you? Any tips for powering through when you’re just not connecting with a book?

(post updated July 21 – photo added)

My favourite book of the 2010s

I was a bit late to the party when it came to The Night Circus. This awesome book by Erin Morgenstern was published in 2011, and I was sadly oblivious about it until a friend bought me a copy for my birthday in 2013.

Have you ever read a book where the words just feel good in your brain? That’s the only way I can describe it. The story, the characters, the language, the art … it’s just breathtaking.

I’m not going to write a review because I can’t possibly describe it without ruining some of the magic of the book (plus, so many other people have already done so, and I don’t know that my repeated exclamations of “it’s just awesome, so read it” would be adding much to the conversation). I will say that I wanted to start reading it again as soon as I hit the last word, and I have shamelessly pushed copies on most of my family and friends. The Night Circus is definitely my favourite book of the 2010s (and I’m not even going to put the “so far” caveat on that!).

Here’s a quick interview with author Erin Morgenstern. It’s from a few years ago, but still interesting to hear her process and her thoughts on the response from readers.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Our most recent Joy of Reading Book Club pick was Life After Life.

Life After Life

Life After Life is based around a simple premise, one that we’ve all probably thought about from time to time: What if I could go back and do it differently? What if I could do it again until I got it right?

The story follows the life of Ursula Todd, a Londoner, born in 1910. It takes Ursula a while to get the whole “life” thing down – she starts over more than once before hitting her teen years, and then a few more times throughout her adult years. And while I understand that going back to the beginning is a great way to establish character, family dynamic, and to set up the idea that this character’s life is restarting, with little bits of trace memory from the last time around, I have to admit, the repetition got to me in the first 100 pages or so. (It’s never a good sign when you’re thinking ‘come on, not again’.) But when the author stopped going back to 1910 every time Ursula’s life ended, and I was able to start connecting with the adolescent or adult Ursula, the book really started to pay off (and it became ‘Come on! Not again!).

Once the scene was set, the author’s telling of Ursula’s story(ies) throughout both WWI and WWII managed to be both touching and heart breaking at the same time.

Filled with imaginative takes on historical events (having Ursula befriend Eva Braun for example), endearing characters (Teddy!), tough-to-love characters (Sylvia …) and just enough humour to off-set the more serious events (young Ursula trying to save the maid from the Spanish flu was a truly enjoyable running gag), I found Life After Life to be a unique, interesting, and worth-while read.

My only real criticism? The fox and the rabbit on the book cover. While they are elements that weave throughout the book, they would not have been my first choice for the cover art.

Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes – and in fact I have, but with the caveat that you need to be patient with the book. It picks up, I promise, and when it does it’s well worth the wait!