Sunday, March 4, 2012

Judging a Book by its Cover...

One of the tried and true clichés in the book world is the age old adage don't judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, a lot of the time that's what my job requires. When buying remaindered books I rely on my knowledge of what sells in our store but also I take a chance on titles I don't know. I don't have the luxury of reading every book I see (at abook fair or warehouse I see up to a million titles in an eight hour day) and when a sales rep comes they usually bring only the covers. So a lot of times this is all I have to go on.

On the other hand sometimes that is just what a book needs as it's sitting on our new release tables. One of those books has been on various display tables since I saw the cover in the summer of 2006: Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan (who has now become a friend of mine after a pretty fun reading we did with him. We have since sold 635 copies of the paperback, 150 remainder copies, and if I remember correctly almost 200 in the original hardcover edition....

I picked up this book after one look of the cover and didn't put it down after the first paragraph:

"I was stealing saltshakers again. Ten, sometimes twelve a night, shoving them in my pockets, hiding them up my sleeves, smuggling them out of bars and diners and anywhere else I could find them. In the morning, wherever I woke, I was always covered in salt. I was cured meat. I had become beef jerky. Even as a small, small child, I knew it would one day come to this."
I was in the middle of two other books when I walked past Tupelo Hassman's first novel, Girlchild, on our newly released hardcover fiction table. The library card over the trailer-home in the desert photo caught my eye and I picked it up and started reading:

"Mama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call these people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they're coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up we'll agree that there has been 'No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down.' "
From there I couldn't put it down. This is a dark, compelling, and poignant novel about a young girl and aspiring girl scout trying to escape the history of the women of her family and escape the Calle, a mobile-home town outside of Reno full of white trash, drunks, and the danger of being from a long line of damaged women.

- npb

4 comments:

Dan O'Brien said...

It is really sad that this is the case. My zombie novella, The End of the World Playlist, has a pretty standard cover, but folks seem to be enjoying it well enough. :)

npb said...

@Dan: This is by no means always the case, I have read just as many great books with horrible covers. Sometimes though a great cover will lead you to a book you might not have expected to find an interest in...

Anonymous said...

By its cover. Not it's.

Anonymous said...

What is a "first-time novel?"