I read a review in the Los Angeles Review of Books the other day about a collection of essays called Xylotheque by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. I had no idea what xylotheque meant and I had never heard of the author before but before I even got to the part of the review that began to explain the title I had already decided I was going to buy the book. Why? I had no idea what the book was about, I still don’t really because I never actually finished reading the review, but the reviewer hit so many key words and phrases that had my synapses buzzing I had to have the book.
What had me so worked up? Let’s make a list!
- lyrical essays
- borderland between prose and poetry
- sure-footed in their gamboling
- revel in the gap between knowing and unknowing
- provoking meditation
I was caught hook, line, and sinker. The book is now sitting next to me on my reading table and I still don’t know what it is about. for the record though, xylotheque is a collection of wood.
Then I got to thinking about other words that pop up in reviews that make me pay attention and want to read a book. And that led to words that make me not want to read a book. The words on both lists aren’t always the same (sometimes they might change lists depending on my mood) and they aren’t even words I would necessarily use when describing a book, but they are words that trigger a reaction in me when someone else writes them.
For future reference, if you are writing about a book and want me to read it, these words will serve you well:
- darkly funny
Also, if anyone ever calls a book a good mind-fuck I will squeal in delight. I love it when a book messes with my head and such a description is so rarely encountered even when expressed less crudely that I will pretty nearly come close to dropping everything to read that book. Unless it is horror. When messing with my head turns into nightmares, won’t go there.
Words describing a book that usually turn me off wanting to read it:
- part of a series (I will sometimes make exceptions for this)
- in the style of *famous author* (unless you say “this book could be the love child of Virginia Woolf and David Foster Wallace” or something equally as odd, then you’ll have my interest)
- if you liked X then you will like Y (though it is ok to say “this book reminded a little bit of X”)
Hmm, I thought the turn off list would be longer. I will very likely think of more words for it after I click the “publish” button.
So what about you? What words trigger an “OMG I have to read this!” reaction in you and what words immediately convince you a particular book is not for you?