If you’ve ever looked through the upcoming releases on Edwelweiss, chances are that you’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books being released in your preferred genres. According to a 2013 Forbes article, there are anywhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published each year in the United States alone. Which is exciting because there will be a book for every reading, but it’s also way more books than we can read in a lifetime!
With so many books to choose from, how do you choose which books to look at? Which ones to read? I thought I would make a list of the things that draw me to a book, as well as some of the themes and tropes I can’t get enough of.
I first saw this post topic over on The Orangutan Librarian a couple of months ago and was inspired to put together my own list for discussion. Be sure to check out their amazing blog!
Things that make me pick up a book
I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I’m sorry… the cover is a marketing tool. There are countless books published every single month and I don’t have the time to read the synopsis for every single one of them. The cover is what entices me to read the synopsis.
Once I decide to look at a book, the main factor for me is if the synopsis sounds interesting to me. I don’t tend to look at reviews to make this decision (but I am known to add a book due to reviews I see when blog hopping).
Morally grey characters
If there is a hint that morality and characters are not strictly black and white in the synopsis, chances are that I will want to read the book. I don’t know why I am so obsessed with characters who do the right thing for the wrong reasons or a good villain redemption story, but I can’t get enough.
I really enjoy fantasy and stories that involve magic. Especially magic earned: I love characters who have to work hard to get what they want, and magic earned tends to have a built-in character development component that appeals to me.
I’ve been obsessed with space since I was a child, and space operas since Firefly first aired. Adventure stories are so interesting to me, and since we live in an age when the planet itself has been discovered, we have to look up for the new frontier.
I don’t think that I will ever tire of fantasy stories surrounding the political machinations and power struggles of ruling a kingdom. These stories often look at very important themes of power, revolution, and equality.
Mythology and retellings
I love retellings. Breathing new life into a beloved tale, looking at different perspectives and focusing on different characters.
Reviews from readers I trust
I get better at choosing books I am likely to enjoy the more that I read, but sometimes books slip through the cracks. (Or have a terrible cover that makes me think it’s about something it isn’t.) There are a number of reviewers who have very similar reading preferences to me and have gotten me to read a book. I actually skipped over Sadie by Courtney Summers because the cover made me think it was a coming-of-age contemporary… until I saw Destiny review it and I actually paid attention to what it was about. I wound up reading and loving it thanks to her review.
There you have it… some of the reasons that I will pick up a book and add it to my TBR! What makes YOU want to pick up a book? Let me know in the comments below!
Usually I will pick a book based on the cover and then use the synopsis to decide if I actually want to get it, but I love space and magic 😀 Great list!
Space and magic are almost always instant sells for me!
Laura W says
I’m glad I’m not the only cover snob 🙂 I always feel kind of guilty saying it because, like you said, we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I definitely do. I completely agree that the cover of a book is arguably one of its most powerful marketing tools and should really be taken into consideration. Also, morally gray characters, yes!! I just feel like authors who dive right into that whole mess come closer to capturing reality than those who don’t. This is such a great topic, Kal!
Whew, I am glad to not be the only cover snob as well! 🙌 But honestly, it is a marketing tool and the one way to grab attention when you are just wandering the aisles of your favorite bookstore looking for something to pique your interest. Thanks for reading, Laura!
My answers would depend on where I am when I am looking at books. If I’m in a physical book store, then the cover will be the first thing that attracts me but then I will read the synopsis and the first few pages.
If I’m looking on line I am unlikely to be browsing – I am generally there because I;ve seen a review elsewhere that made me think I would like a particular book
You bring up an interesting point, covers make a HUGE difference for in-person browsing for sure. The only time covers matter to me online is when I am browsing upcoming releases to be honest. Otherwise, I tend to look up books based on other reviews or screeching I see on Twitter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Leelynn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads says
The cover is what entices me to read the synopsis.
That line spoke to my soul. I’m so glad you did this post, Kal!! It’s so true.
Awww, I am glad the post & list resonated with you (and that I am not the only person drawn in by covers)! Thanks so much for reading, Leelynn!
Covers and synopses definitely pull me in, but I think I’ve gotten very reliant on picking my next read by reading thoughts on it from reviewers I trust! I’m honestly never the person waiting on anticipated releases because I always wait until I’ve read lots of opinions on a book before deciding whether or not to purchase it!
Ahhh, so interesting! I tend to not read reviews for books I’ve already decided that I want to read because I like to try to avoid hype & not taint my reading experience, but I do think I would spend less money on books if I followed your lead on this, Brittany.
It’s such a weird habit of mine but I feel like I HAVE to check out a few reviews before starting the book. It’s a helpful habit as far as anticipating content or trigger warnings, but it has been known to spoil the plot for me a time or two!
Ah yea, it would be nice to know of some triggers in advance for sure, but I am so terrified of spoilers and/or having other people’s opinions cloud my reading experience.
jess @ crowing about books says
I really love morally grey characters as well! If I hear about it, it’ll be something I definitely want to pick up. Also, I have definitely read books JUST because they have a pretty cover, and I’m really not fond of ugly covers either.
Morally grey characters are my favorites, I think because they feel more “real” and complex to me? I don’t know. I have been guilty of almost buying a book JUST BECAUSE of the cover, but so far I have kept myself under control.
Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says
Most of the things you mentioned, to be honest! Also, if it’s an auto-buy author, of course. Mostly, if I keep seeing the book around I’ll be tempted to pick it up… It depends on what people are saying about it, though.
Great post, Kal! 🙂
I forgot about auto-buy authors!!! I don’t have a lot of them, but I definitely do have a few who I would buy their grocery lists to read if I could, so I def get that. Thanks for reading, Sophie!
Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says
Hahaha, yes!! <3
The title is the first thing that draws me in. If it’s a provocative title or the title makes it obvious that the book is about one of my pet subjects, then I’ll move on to the back cover/inside flap to find out more. Coming in at a VERY close second, though, are reviews from my fellow book bloggers, because this is a fantastic community and I’ve read so much and added so much to my TBR thanks to all of you! 🙂
Oooh you are right, I have definitely been drawn in by a particularly compelling book title as well! And yea, my TBR is never-ending thanks to the amazing reviews in the community, too!
Kelsey @ There's Something About KM says
Such a great list! Synopsis and Cover are the two main things that influence me to pick up a book; and if the former mentions a morally gray character then I know I have to read it – I’m totally with you there!
*high fives* Glad to know I am not the only person who is almost guaranteed to read a book with morally grey characters lol
I like it when publishers do different cover art for the hardback and paperback, and then maybe completely different cover art again a few years later. Sometimes I’ll skip over a book because the cover art didn’t look like something I’d like, and then I see it a few years later with new cover art and I can’t help but buy the book!
on the flip side, there was an urban fantasy series I enjoyed a few years ago, and out of impatience I ordered the last few books from the UK, and received excellent books with the most hideous cover art!
Oooh, you have a good point! And I have the memory of a goldfish, so I am definitely guilty of being drawn into a paperback release of a book because of the new cover. Bummer on the hideous cover art, though. I am such a snob about it I think I tend to buy less than pretty covered books on Kindle so I don’t have them on my bookshelves lol
Great picks! I’m a total sucker for royal politics. I never thought it would be a ‘me’ thing but it’s become one of my favorite parts of YA fantasies
Me too! I don’t know why it is so interesting to me, but here we are.
Meeghan reads says
I am all here for the retellings with magical morally grey characters, recommended by readers I trust!! (Also, now I want to read this book because it sounds great.)
…seriously, we need to find the book(s) that fit this bill so we can read & love them! Does this book exist?! Do we need to write it?!
Meeghan reads says
I think we need to write it… Although every time I sit down to write a fantasy book it turns out contemporary… so, maybe not me!!
I just love magic books so much!! I tried looking for some Magic Earned lists on GR and there’s nothing? I don’t think I’ve ever been a big fan of politics but after writing a fantasy wip, I’ve found out that politics are a huge deal and will definitely be making use of my thick Politics textbook 😁
Covers are a huge deal with how we choose our reads. There’s no way that we can say that they don’t – but I’m glad that covers are becoming greater because now they’re so pretty??
Oooh, that is a good idea for a listicle – because I love me some magic earned and need more stories surrounding that! Politics definitely add a lot to the story, especially in building in believable tension/strife for the main characters. Plus, you can use it as a way to speak on current events/world affairs if you want to.
Covers are so damn pretty and it is increasingly becoming a problem for my budget!
Definitely do that so I can look and see which are magic earned – that I’ve read! Politics honestly stretches more than I thought it would 😳 oh yeah I totally added a whole bunch of lines alluding to something I feel 😁 it’ll probably grow once I start editing.
But then again we won’t want them to go back to the old covers 😅
I think that if I’m in a store of course it’s cover first as like they’re presented to you in that way, but online I can definitely be more persuaded on synopsis alone…but…if I really don’t like the cover I will generally give it a pass or low priority lolol I’m vain like that. For some reason I really tend to prefer UK covers over US ones too, Idk why, I feel like they’re less ‘busy,’ I also of course end up reading like everything you recommend on your blog lolol
I am definitely more likely to “forgive” a bad cover and read a synopsis online; glad I am not the only vain person though! I love a lot of UK fantasy editions, sometimes more than US covers. It’s really hit or miss for me though, and I tend to forget to check cover art for the UK most of the time.
Great post! I also tend to look at the cover first and then at the synopsis but I guess that’s what most people do without even thinking about it. I agree with you about the characters and I always try to go for books where characters’ actions and emotions are explored because I find them so much more enticing.
I also really enjoy books that are focused on the character & their development – I think all of the books that broke my heart was as a result of the characters and my affection for them.
Nerd Narration says
Me reading this list: Yes, Yes, YES, see she just gets it, etc. lol
Fantastic post, Kal!!
HUZZAH for you also getting it, Taylor! Thanks for reading!
Becca Leighanne (Bex) says
I’m FOREVER a sucker for a good cover.
That’s a big damn mood, my friend.
Ah Kal this is such a great list, I love it. I have to admit that, even if I don’t want to seem this shallow, the cover will always, always have an influence on whether or not I’ll read on a synopsis, when I have no prior experience with the book or author at all and when no one has mentioned the book before. Ever since I started blogging, blogging friends’ reviews have had such an incredible amount of influence in making me pick up a book, too… in fact, I think all of my current physical TBR exists solely because of bloggers’ recommendations 😀
I hear you completely on feeling rather shallow for judging a book by the cover – I feel bad about it, but honestly there are SO MANY BOOKS and pretty covers get my attention! Friend’s reviews definitely have gotten books on my TBR that I passed up for one reason or another, and are likely why I will never read all the books I want to in this life. Thanks for reading, Marie!
Siobhan @ Novelties says
Love your post, Kal! 💜 Of course the cover and blurb. But I mostly rely on trust bloggers and their reviews. I’ve found so many titles this way.
My TBR will always be overflowing thanks to reviewers from friends!
Definitely the cover makes me pick up a book, and I’ve been known to stay far away from books with awful covers, even if they sound interesting! Great post, Kal:-)
Glad that I’m not the only person who steer clear of books with covers I don’t like! I always feel bad about it but… I can’t help it???
Destiny @ Howling Libraries says
What a great (and relatable) list of reasons! I am so, so happy that I was able to help sway you towards Sadie, because WOW, what a gem. ♥
Honestly the number of times I saw that cover in reviews and just assumed it was something else is embarrassing. I am so glad I finally paid attention when you posted your review because WOW.
Destiny @ Howling Libraries says
If it’s any comfort, I had no interest AT ALL based on the cover alone until Jay Kristoff tweeted saying how much he loved it!
That IS comforting to know, THANK YOU! I am really glad to know I am not the only one???
Kate Suban (+Realms) (@KateSuban) says
Usually it’s the author that gets me to look at a book first, before all else. If it’s an author whose work I’ve liked before, or who I know I’ve heard good things about, chances are I’ll pick up their book and move to reading the synopsis.
If the synopsis sounds like something that would interest me, then odds are pretty good I’ll want to read the book.
It’s basically those two things, really. Covers are nice, but they don’t usually attract me in particular (though a bad cover may turn me away).
I can’t believe that I forgot to add authors to my list, because you are definitely right there! I have a few authors I would read anything they penned, and that does make a big difference for me. Thanks for reading!
Molly's Book Nook says
I love morally grey characters / villain redemption stories too! OR Villain ORIGIN stories. I pick those up quick too. I like reading about characters becoming evil muahaha 😀
VILLAIN ORIGIN STORIES ARE THE BEST! I love them. I also love retellings from the perspective of the villain. Muahahaha
Molly's Book Nook says
On a related note, we just watched Brightburn last night which is like a “evil superman” origin story! It was pretty good!
Oooh, thanks for the recommendation because ya girl needs this in her life… stat!
Macey @ Brine and Books says
I don’t think my comment went through :’) but I love when morally grey or amoral characters come to have strong morals. Han Solo vibes all the way!!
I also really love watching redemption arcs for baddies/amoral characters, it is so interesting for me and feels so… human? Thanks for reading!
Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says
Great post, Kal! You’ve literally stolen all of these points from my mind! Haha! <3 Morally grey characters and magic are HUGE factors in helping me decide whether or not to pick up a book (it's no mere coincidence that so many of the books I read, have these two criteria). I'm also a shameless cover judger, so artwork certainly has an influence over whether or not I'll initially pick up a book. 🙂
Thank you so much, and ONE OF US! ONE OF US! Many of my fave books and characters are also magic or morally grey, and I am not sure what that says about me as a person.
Great topic! What makes me pick up a book? A lot of the same things as you. Initially the cover or the synopsis. If I see someone really passionately squeeing over it on a blog or on twitter. Definitely recs from people who I trust because I know they have similar tastes….these are all good ways to get me into a book. Also favorite subjects such as retellings, humor, romance. 🙂
It is so cool to hear what makes people want to pick up a book, especially since so many people agree with me! I definitely have checked out a book because of a person or few people on my TL screaming its praises on Twitter. And yeeeesss to retellings!
Amazing post Kal! Fantasy , Royal politics , unique magic system basically sell the book for me.
Thank you, Dany! Royal politics is such a niche genre that I never expected to enjoy as much as I do, but here we are.
yes i agree with so many of these!
for me its definitely covers and authors that make me pick it up, but reviews from readers i have similar tastes with is v v close too
I am honestly so glad most of you all agree with me about covers for some reason, lol.
Jennifer Pletcher says
My first go to is always the title, and then I read the back from there. Then after that – I read a ton of Amazon reviews! One bad review makes me pause – I know it shouldn’t.
Ah, I don’t really read a lot of reviews before I read if I think it will be a book I want to read because I find it unconsciously shapes my opinion going into it? Bad reviews are useful though, but just because it doesn’t work for one doesn’t mean the same will be for you. I am almost suspicious of books with nothing but praise!
Clo @ Book Dragons says
If I’m in a library/bookshop then it’s the spines/covers or in some cases the actual title of the book piques my interest. Then I’ll flip it over and see what the blurb has to say. Though often now I’ll be seeing books and remembering seeing reviews from friends and readers who have similar tastes to me and then my purse just sobs…*looks pointedly at you* you are a MASSIVE culprit for my bank and TBR being mad at me Kal, stop throwing so many good books at me haha
GUILTY AS CHARGED, and I wouldn’t dare of not making your purse weep! But yes, I love me some pretty spines, too!
ooh yes to morally grey characters- that always gets me intrigued!! I love magic and space operas too. And reviews definitely get me interested in books. I also really like books based on mythology and retellings 🙂 Awesome list!
Morally grey characters are just so interesting to me??? I am sure that says a lot about me as a person, but whatever. Retellings! <3 Thanks for inspiring me to make this list!
The biggest factors for me are reviews and cover!! If interested, I’ll look into the synopsis. If they’re retellings, mythology, fantasy or contemporary, there’s a high chance I’ll read them … I might give a chance to other genres, but it’s not as likely :/ Great list! 😀
Interesting! Because I follow closely all of the upcoming releases and TBR the ones of interest, I don’t tend to read reviews for books I plan on reading because I don’t want my opinion to somehow be affected prior to reading. Retellings and mythology are def instant-reads for me though!
Marta @ the book mermaid says
That’s really interesting! Sometimes tho, reading other people’s reviews really motivate me if I’m not enjoying a book, for example …
I should peek at them when I am struggling whether or not to DNF… hmmmm
Erin Eliza says
Yes to this entire list. I also love a good enemies to lovers trope and basically anything you guys recommend through discord hahaha
Muahahaha yea my TBR has grown a lot thanks to our discord group, lol! I love enemies to lovers but am wary of it because so often it is bullying or abusive, and I ain’t about that life.