Tuesday, 5 March 2013

From Bookstore to Bookshelf

Whenever I step into a bookstore, I'm met with all the books clamoring for attention -- urging me to read them and making promises of wondrous worlds and exciting adventures. Alas, I cannot buy all of them.When choosing what books to read, I tend to look at three things: 

1. The cover. Yes, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover but if I'm surrounded by a mob of books and a cover stands out, I'm more likely to pick it up. 

2. The blurb. This makes the difference between a book that is opened and a book that is returned back to the shelf to join its comrades. 

3. The opening paragraph. If the book survives the blurb inspection, then this is its chance to reel me in and make sure I only have eyes for it. 

So, here is a list of books and their opening paragraphs that won me over. 

1. The Fault in Our Stars

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

I love the voice used here. It instantly captivated me. I think the statement, "Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed" is a powerful one. It emphasizes Hazel's (the MC) voice and hints at her relationship with her mother.

2. The Hobbit

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 

The mention of a hobbit instantly caught my attention because I like the sound of the word and it makes me wonder what a hobbit is. The opening's strength lies in its conversational tone; we don't get a flat and dull explanation of what a hobbit is. I like the fact that the narrator addresses our notions of a hole and the descriptions he used. This makes it seem like the narrator is conversing with us. My favorite part is the end "it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone depending on what version you have)

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

Usually, an opening about a no-nonsense couple would not be interesting. However, the tone that J.K Rowling employs when she uses words like "thank you very much" and "they just didn't hold with such nonsense" transforms a mundane topic into a captivating one. These statements breathe life into the characters and hint that something fantastic and abnormal will happen. I may be biased but the name Dursley also seems fitting for these horrid characters -- it sounds negative.

There are plenty of books with amazing opening paragraphs. How do you pick your books and which openings captivated you?


  1. Oh I'm guilty of judging a book by it's cover too and then comes the blurb.

    But I haven't bought a book based on the opening paragraph ever-I think I might be missing out!But I do love it when a book opens with a action or lots of drama! :D

    The Fault in Our Stars is definitely a great pick! ;)

    1. Yes, it's hard to resist gorgeous covers. In the past, I didn't pick books based on the opening but there was a time where the blurb wasn't enough. I didn't know if I loved the idea but I also didn't want to return the book, so I ended up looking at the opening paragraph.

      Drama and action are great but I think what draws me the most, is the voice. There can be books with a lot of drama and action but a terrible, flat voice that I don't care about.

  2. Nowadays I just follow the recommendations of friends. I trust them and so far I haven't been let down XD.
    I used to go for interesting titles and opening paragraphs. Oddest one to survive the test was "Snot Stew", but that was ages ago.

  3. Yes, recommendations are good too, especially if you have similar tastes. And haha wow Snot Stew. I'm trying to think of the weirdest title I encountered but I'm blanking.