Hey, You, Get off of My Shelf

Get it? “Hey, you, get off of my shelf…” You know, like “Hey, you, get off of my cloud…” The Rolling Stones? Anyone?


So last week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) topic was something that makes us instantly want to read a book, so let’s see if you can guess this week’s topic. YES! You in the back row with the yellow shirt (totally your color, by the way), that’s right. Today’s topic is what instantly makes us NOT want to read a book.

Right off the bat, let’s just go ahead and break rule number one (I’m sure I am not the only one doing this): Its cover is stupid/cheesy/just not compelling in any way. That’s right. I judge a book by its cover. For example, if I happen to come across these:

Product DetailsProduct Details

(Hm. These were listed on Amazon under “Best Amish Romance,” like that’s a thing. By the way, my search history is so wrecked now. And no, I wouldn’t read these even if they had a better cover, so maybe not the best example.) Put a woman in a bonnet on the cover of your novel, and I’m probably going to walk on by. I also avoid clowns, most wizards, and evil cat eyes. And while we’re at it, I seriously hate movie tie-in covers, and I’ll go out of my way to find a copy without one if the book has been turned into a movie/TV show. One thing that seriously annoys me about Kindle books is that Amazon now automatically updates covers to the movie/TV-show tie-in. STAHP.

Its title is too dumb to say out loud. Okay, that’s a little over the top. Maybe. Except my Mom tried for years to get me to read a book called Fair and Tender Ladies (by Lee Smith), and I resisted with every fiber of my being because ugh. That title. And then there are titles like Where White Horses Gallop and Butterflies Dance in the Dark. Please! (And, of course, the above-pictured The Healing Heart of an Amish Girl.) If any of these are your favorite books, I am sorry (on so many levels).

Except you know what? Fair and Tender Ladies is a really wonderful book. I’m not kidding.

It’s been blurbed by Jonathan Franzen. I read The Corrections and it was good. Not the best novel of a generation, not the Best American Novel, but good. I’ll probably read Freedom and Purity at some point. All that to say, nothing about an endorsement from Franzen will make me hurry to pick up a book. And apparently I’m not in a hurry to pick up his books, either.

It’s been compared to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This is the book that broke Dave Eggers for me. I like McSweeney’s and The Believer and he does a lot of good for literacy with his 826 Valencia project. Any comparison to that book makes me think, “Hm, so navel-gazing, self-aggrandizing, SO POSTMODERN Tristram Shandy ripoff” is not going to have me reaching for my wallet.

It’s written by Dave Eggers. See above. I don’t know why, I just haven’t been able to do it. Lots of people whose opinions I trust think he’s a great writer. On the other hand, I have several titles by Vendela Vida on my TBR. She’s his wife. So that’s something, yes? Come on, someone talk me out of this one and convince me to read one of his books. This is a cry for help.

It’s the first book in a series. So many good series exist out there, but I don’t have that kind of time. I have too many books on my TBR list as it is. So while I am really, really curious about, say, Donna Leon, I probably won’t be rushing to pick up one of her books any time soon. I still have to get through all of Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books first. Bah.

It’s self-published. I know. The Martian was self-published, and look what happened there! You can now buy the book with the movie tie-in cover! It has Matt Damon on it! Look, getting published is not easy. Some self-published works out there might be really good. And you do hear about some breakout authors (Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking) who make a lot of money or get book deals. It seems, though, that a lot of self-publishing happens in genres that don’t interest me all that much (fantasy, romance). I also imagine I would spend more time editing (in my mind, anyway) these titles than reading them.

Its description includes the words “magical realism.” I’m not saying I don’t like magical realism. I’m just saying I won’t rush to pick it up.

It’s titled Fifty Shades of [You Name It]. Do I need to explain this one?

It features a precocious child or an animal as the narrator. Children’s voices are hard to get right, and most adults can’t do it. There are some exceptions. (Don’t come at me with Room because I didn’t make it past page five on that one, and don’t think the movie tie-in cover with Brie Larson will help because I didn’t see the movie.) And I like dogs, but I’m not really interested in any novel narrated by one. Plus, if a dog is narrating, you know the ending will be sad. It’s a given. Don’t pretend it’s not.

Your turn*…what keeps you from instantly picking up a book (or from picking it up at all)? 

*I love connecting with other readers, and I enjoy hearing from you if you have something fun to share. If you are just here to leave a lame comment so you can post your own link (“Great list! Here’s mine!” or “Me, too! Here’s mine!” ), please don’t waste your time.

12 thoughts on “Hey, You, Get off of My Shelf

  1. Hahahaha! The Amish subgenre. I used to work in a library and we had so many of these and they circulated like crazy! I don’t get it.

  2. Self-published is a big book turn off for me, too. Experience has taught me that they just aren’t going to be well done. Of course, there are exceptions, but it seems those exceptions are few and far between.

  3. Ugly covers and self pub, and Jonathan Frazen, will definitely keep me away. Of course, magical realism will have me skipping merrily down the bookstore aisles clutching the title with true joy, but I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 😉 Loved reading your reasons!

  4. Meaghan, I never knew such a thing existed until NetGalley. It seemed like they always had hundreds of them available for review, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen a blogger review one! I cannot imagine what that would be like. It just seems so awkward.

  5. Allyson, I do feel sort of bad about that one, because I think about all the hard work many of those people put in…but many of them also seem to fall into the category of people who believe they don’t need an editor.

  6. Kate, the funny thing is, I can only think of a couple of people who write magical realism…Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alice Hoffman. And honestly, I’m not sure about Alice Hoffman. Would you consider her stuff magical realism? But I’ve enjoyed their writing, so who knows? I think it’s just the idea of it, so if I see that phrase in a description, I’ll probably pick something else.

  7. Hahahaha, I love that you dedicated two slots on your list to Dave Eggers. I don’t like Dave Eggers that much either — I did my best by him and read two of his books but now I am done — but I don’t know that I’d give him a slot on my “get off my shelf list.” I LOVE IT.

  8. Jenny, I honestly don’t know if I like Dave Eggers or not. I just know that my first attempt to read him was with his first book, and I didn’t make it past 30 pages. The experience turned me off so much that I’ve just never felt tempted. I could be wrong, but god there are so many other things to read!

  9. Sue, the cover is also not anything that would have attracted me. It’s a woman hanging a colorful quilt on a clothesline, blue sky and floaty clouds in the background. Strike two! But it really is a lovely book, and I wonder how many people have passed over it because of that dumb title.

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