What’s in a Name?
How do you decide what books you’ll read? Amongst the millions that are out there online and on shelves, how do you choose? Is it the cover? The author you’ve always read? Or is it something as simple as the title.
When I first started reading books, I didn’t pay attention at all to where they sat on the bookshelf, or what category they fell in. Back in the day, I found most of the books I liked to read in my high school library. They were hardbacks. They didn’t have the cover sleeve. There were no pictures to attract my attention. Nowadays I have to wonder how those authors ever managed to make a sale without the shiny story-within-a-story book covers that splash across my screen when I go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble (.com) to see what’s new. Then, there were only titles, followed by story, followed by read the book.
If a title interested me, I picked the book out and read a few paragraphs, or more, as the case may be, if it was a gripping story right at the start. It turned out that most of the books I ended up reading straight through were fantasy. When I started buying books and ended up at the mall bookstore (whatever happened to those?) I landed in front of the fantasy section, picking out books from their titles, yes, but now that I had access to paperbacks, I did judge a lot of books from the vivid images splashed across their covers. The Dragon Lance Chronicles, by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss are one of the first book series I started reading – right after Lord of the Rings – due in part because of the cover. That first edition cover, which I remember to this day and still have somewhere in my old house – had three people, a couple of Viking looking guys and a girl warrior (that was new and different) and in the background a red dragon slinking across a wooded hilltop, low and menacing. It was that dragon, along with that great series title, Dragon Lance, that drew me right in.
Another series of books with a great title was Nine Princes in Amber. Nine? I was interested enough to start reading, which immediately led to finishing that book and moving on to the next and the next. The book cover of that first book didn’t strike me so much for this one – it was black, had two rings with a armored guy in the middle, a castle on a hill on one side and a horde of creatures on the other. I remember thinking what is going on there, but I loved the title. It set my imagination off, and then, of course, I was hooked. (In case you’ve never read them, you absolutely should, the whole series by Roger Zelazny – I can’t imagine life without awareness of the Pattern and Shadow).
My point to all this rambling is that a book cover isn’t the only thing to pull a person into reading a great piece of fantasy. A great title can do the trick almost as well. I almost never read book blurbs either, still, but opt for the look inside feature online or thumbing through actual pages if I’m at the bookstore or library. Other great titles that have endured the test of time – The Wheel of Time. The Dark Tower. Earthsea. These are just a few incredible, lasting series, but they all have a couple things in common. Great titles, and above that, amazing stories. For of course, even the most captivating title won’t garner lasting attention without a great story behind it.
Do you have a favorite series or a catchy book title to share? Post them here. I’ll draw a random winner, who’ll get my entire Guardians series, Books 1-7 and an advance copy of King, the Eighth Chronicle, when it is completed (sometime in late February)!