MONDAY MUSINGS 01-25-2021
Five reasons I choose a book
Five reasons I choose a book is the first post in a brand new feature at Okie Dreams, Monday Musings. This feature will be an ongoing, weekly discussion post where I talk about a variety of topics, mostly book related but sometimes it could be other things as well. I’m gonna play it by ear and see what pops up throughout the week that I want to talk about each Monday.
More often than not, in a bookstore or online, a great cover will be the first thing that catches my eye and makes me interested in a book. The colors, the images, the mood, it all has an effect on whether a book will interest me. And when done well, it will make do a little more research on the book, such as opening the cover to read the teaser or first few pages.
Another thing that catches my eye about a book is the title. When a unique title can capture what the book is about and make me want to know how it plays into the story, I will pick that book up (or use the Amazon Look Inside feature) and read the teaser or first few pages. This is important because it is what I will remember when I go into a bookstore to find a print book around release day, or what I look up on Amazon to find out more about the book or the author who wrote it.
I have to admit, I have a lot of auto-buy authors in my stable. Authors I know will give me a great read every time I pick up one of their books. Authors I have read for years. Which means new authors have to work a little bit harder to get me to pick up their books, hence the importance of the cover and title and teaser or first few pages. If these manage to snare my attention and make me want to know more about the story and characters, I will pick the book up and give a new author a try. And if I love it? I will look into the author’s backlist or what they have coming out next.
TEASER OR QUOTE GRAPHICS
I cannot stress enough the importance of posting teaser or quote graphics on social media. If I somehow miss a cover reveal, a teaser or quote graphic is a fantastic way to capture my attention and me do a bit of investigation about the book, the author, and its release date. A book teaser or quote graphic done well can make the difference on whether I pre-order a book or wait to read a couple of reviews once they start going up, especially if I am unfamiliar with the author.
SUMMARY AND OPENING LINES
One of the biggest reasons I choose to read a book is the summary and opening lines. The first few paragraphs of a book are make or break for me most of the time. This is due to preference for engaging writing and magnetic characters or author voice. If the writing can pull me in and the character or author voice can make me care about their thoughts or what is going on in those first few paragraphs, I will read that book. And if the book stays engaging and the characters or author voice stay magnetic then that author goes on my list for the next read, or for a deep dive into a backlist if I’ve missed their previous releases.
In nonfiction reads, topic is just as important as book covers, titles, authors, and summaries or opening lines. Without an engaging writing style or a magnetic author voice, I am less inclined to read a book, especially a nonfiction book. I struggle with dry reads, so to truly capture my attention the author has to be both knowledgeable on the topic and engaging in his or her writing. Since I interact with at-risk high school students during the week and I work in a trauma-informed school building, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction books on childhood trauma and neuroscience (brain science). In addition I also read a lot of writing reference and true crime books (mostly on serial killers, as that was my recent Master’s thesis topic).
MY LATEST PURCHASE
Why do we do the things we do?
Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.
And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. A behavior occurs–whether an example of humans at our best, worst, or somewhere in between. What went on in a person’s brain a second before the behavior happened? Then Sapolsky pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time:
What sight, sound, or smell caused the nervous system to produce that behavior?
And then, what hormones acted hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli that triggered the nervous system? By now he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened.
Sapolsky keeps going:
How was that behavior influenced by structural changes in the nervous system over the preceding months, by that person’s adolescence, childhood, fetal life, and then back to his or her genetic makeup?
Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than one individual. How did culture shape that individual’s group, what ecological factors millennia old formed that culture? And on and on, back to evolutionary factors millions of years old.
The result is one of the most dazzling tours d’horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do…for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.
What makes you pick up a book?
Be sure to comment and let us know.