Book blurbs; Or, you don’t have to take my word for it

This is an old story, but the idea of book blurbs has been on my mind lately. A few members of what I’ve come to think of as my book tribe will take my recommendations based on my word. (Which delights me no end. Thanks, folks!) Giving stacks of books and lists of books to audiences and members of my book tribe made me realize that there’s no one that I trust enough to read whatever they give me. I need to know why a particular book will appeal to me. Which brings me to book blurbs. One of the nice things about reading mostly ebooks is that I don’t see the blurbs on the covers anymore.

In April, Gary Shteygart wrote a tongue-in-cheek farewell to book blurbing (with a long list of exceptions).

From The Collected Blurbs of Gary Shteyngart.

I’m not sure why but I’ve always thought that blurbs were insincere. A lot of them seem so hyperbolic I can’t help reading them sarcastically. After all, if I had my mind blown by as many books as the blurbers have, I wouldn’t have much gray matter left. I suspect that part of the reason I don’t trust book blurbs is that the people doing the blurbing have unknown book tastes of their own. Authors tend to read adventurously, and their tastes don’t always line up with my own.

I find book reviews and listening to other readers talking about books on podcasts much more helpful in finding something to read. In a review, especially a long one from The New York Times or The New Yorker, includes what the critic liked and didn’t like about the book. They provide their own grain (or cup) of salt.


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