Let’s Judge These Books By Their Covers
It was a simple task: Pick a book you’d never heard of and based on the cover, tell the story. Of course, you aren’t going to tell the actual story. You are going to make it up. But, that’s the point of the exercise.
Yesterday, I attended a Toastmasters meeting for the Olympic Orators club in American Fork, UT. One of the unique activities at a Toastmasters meeting is something called “Table Topics.” The Table Topics Master picks a topic and then randomly picks people from the crowd to come up and speak on that topic for 2 minutes. The point is to practice extemporaneous speaking.
Personally, I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like, or a crowd I wasn’t eager to perform for. I love Table Topics. Not everyone is as eager to be put on the spot like that. Yesterday, I was the Table Topics Master. I picked five books at random out of our home library and gave each one a number. As I called on people from the audience, they picked a number and had to either give us a review or tell the story of the book, based on it’s cover.
Being familiar with all the books, it was interesting to me to see these books from a different perspective. Even more interesting was to watch people who are much more experienced with giving speeches than I am, work through the process of coming up with a story on the spot.
What the reviewer said it was about: A boy and a fly go on adventures throughout his neighborhood.
What it’s actually about: A boy and a fly go on adventures throughout his neighborhood.
What the reviewer said it was about: Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and some other people go on a patchwork of adventures in Oz
What it’s actually about: Dorothy, the scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl go on more adventures in Oz
What the reviewer said it was about: Why do kids ask so many questions? Why did Don Quixote attack windmills? Why did I agree to come up here?
What it’s actually about: Answers to 100’s of questions that kids ask about how things work.
What the reviewer said it was about: These people on the cover founded Seattle. Some were respectable, some were not. The lady was the least respectable of all.
What it’s actually about: The people on the cover founded Seattle. Some were respectable, some were not. The woman was the Madam of a brothel that at one point was the only thing between Seattle and financial ruin.
What the reviewer said it was about: A rip roaring adventure told with brilliant word smithing and some plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.
What it’s actually about: A rip roaring adventure told with brilliant word smithing and a very tight plot.
The fascinating thing to me was first that the artists who designed the covers managed to convey so much of the story in a few words and pictures. But, also how we as readers are influenced by the cover of a book. Actually, the exercise failed to meet my initial expectations. I expected stories that while tied to the cover, were wildly different than the actual contents of the book. It wasn’t the case at all.
I guess you really can judge a book by its cover.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved