Book descriptions are the worst. My absolute favorite part about being with a publisher now is that I don’t have to write to the blurbs on the back of my books anymore. Honestly.
But I don’t just hate writing them – I hate reading them. I’ve read a large amount of books in my life, and I would say a good 90% of the descriptions I’ve read sound like crap to me. This is even on books that I really love.
For example, my favorite books in the whole world are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Cat’s Cradle (also by Vonnegut). I put off reading them for most of my life because based on the descriptions I thought they sounded stupid. Then a coworker was reading Hocus Pocus (a different Vonnegut book), and he said, “Here. You have to read this.” And then I did, and I loved it, and went on to read most everything Vonnegut has written.
Sometimes I read reviews of books, even glowing reviews, before I consider reading a book, and I almost always thing, “This sounds horrible.” I don’t know why exactly, but that’s what always happens. And then, many times, I go on to read books and think, “Wow! This is very enjoyable!”
There is some kind of disconnect, at least for me. And this only applies to books. In movies, I’m always fine. I can read descriptions and reviews. In fact, I’ve read Roger Ebert’s reviews on everything with kind of a fervent devotion.
So if you’re trying to sell me on a book, you should never give me a description. Well, maybe a small one. For example, if you’re trying to get me to read Jurassic Park, you might say, “This has dinosaurs in it.” That’s it. Here’s It: “There’s a clown.” And now Silence of the Lambs: “There’s a couple serial killers.” Slaughterhouse-Five: “It’s about WW II.” Or possibly “It’s about time travel.” But don’t say “WWII and time travel,” that’s too much, and I’ve already decided that it’s going to be stupid.
I was just thinking about that today, because I was getting a couple new books. I looked a couple new ones, and I was like, “These all sound dumb.” But they probably won’t be. Well, some of them might be.
People often ask me what I’m currently reading. Right now, I’m working my way through the complete collection of “Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Waterson as well as Bodies in the Barrels Murders by Jeremy Pudney, which is the true story about a famous Australian serial killer. Next up, I think I’ll read Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, and probably a book about Ed Gein.
For the past six months or so, I’ve almost exclusively read non-fiction or graphic novels. Or re-read books I’ve read before. In non-fiction, I prefer biographies or books about murders and WWII. Some of the books I’ve read recently for the first time are Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli, The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem by Darrell Hammond, This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, Balthazar: An Evernight Novel by Claudia Gray, Spandau The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer, Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan, Batman: Knightfall, Part One: Broken Bat by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon. Here are some books that I’ve recently re-read Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk , and half of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
I only listed books I completed reading. I often start books and don’t finish them if I’m not enjoying them. So if I listed those books, I think they’re good, and you might think so too. Maybe not.
There’s not a lot of YA on the list, and that’s not because I don’t like it. I go through phases where I read a ton of a certain kind of book. Right now, it’s not a lot of YA. Later on, it probably will be.
I do think part of it is because I’m writing YA, too. I want to kind of separate myself from it as I’m working. I spend a lot of time in a dramatic fantasy world with teenagers, and I love it. But I don’t want to spend 24 hours a day in the same type of world. So I think I go for kind of the exact opposite, almost as a pallet cleanser.
So those are some things about books that aren’t mine.