Short Stories


How to Know if a Book is Good

The answer is kind of simple. Start reading the book. If you enjoy reading it, keep going. If you don't, stop. Um, if you can't decide, read a little more.

Um, authors try to "hook" you. That means, in their metaphor, you are a fish who can't escape because their hook is in your mouth. If you like being hooked, great! If you're not enjoying a book but you need to know the finish . . . read the finish.

The Blurb: Ugh

A book usually has a short description on the cover. Maybe on the back; maybe on the inside of the jacket. Amazon will have one too.

You can read the blurb and know if it's the type of book you like. You can read the blurb and see if it's interesting.

If that works for you, great.

BUT MOST BLURBS DETRACT FROM YOUR READING EXPERIENCE! Really. The blurb is not designed to improve your enjoyment of the boo; it's designed to hook you. The publishers will do anything they can to get you to read the book.

That includes being misleading. I do sometimes read the blurb after I have read the book. Sometimes it's just an error -- the person writing the blurb of course did not read the book, and apparently the author did not read the blurb.

Blurbs also (often) tell you things you should not know. Think "spoiler". Really, the blurb does not have your best interest in mind; it has the publisher's best interest in mind.

I think a correct statement of the theme/lesson would be harmful in a blurb, as it would give away too much. But, should you find one of those, it is unlikely to be correct.

Evidence, Explanation

The Title: Ugh

I once bought a book because the title was so brilliant. Um, it was the only part of the book worth reading.

One book was titled something like "Don't Use Me". The book was written in third-person. (That's a first-person title.) That ties for worst title with "Shalimar the Clown". Shalimar was an acrobat.

Normally, of course, the title just tells you nothing. Ignore it. Really, you get more out of the color of the book than the title.

Being Contrary

Being contrary means you examine the title, blurb, and immediate start. If it's good, you don't read the book; if it's bad, you do read the book. Contrarian = backwards.

That actually doesn't work well, as a general rule. But it has a certain logic. I have read a book, did not see the point of why it was ever published, and then realized . . . a short description of the book would be interesting; the characters come out flat, but a short description of these characters would seem interesting.

To be very cynical, books get published because they have good titles, blurbs, and starts. If we buy or read books because they have good titles, blurbs, and starts, we are rewarding the publishers for publishing those books.


One of my friends wrote the perfect prologue. It takes place a hundred years before the real story; it contributes to the plot; it does not spoil anything; and it starts an action book with action.

That's rare. Believe it or not, the usual purpose of the prologue is to sell the book. It can (and usually does) undermine your reading enjoyment, by being a spoiler.

One good author, whom I like reading, took the best scene in her book and moved it to the prologue. There, it's still an interesting scene. But the reader doesn't really know what's happening, so it's not a great scene any more.

So she ruined the scene, just to sell her book. I have to say, this scene is also the critical scene in her book; the book turns on this scene. In the actual story, it just gets a sentence.

In another book, which I liked, the prologue is from the middle of the book, about a character's death. Now, the whole book depends on the reader liking this sometimes-difficult-to-like character. That worked for me, BECAUSE I DID NOT READ THE PROLOGUE. Um, if you know a character is going to die, you are not going to attach to that character.

The Immediate Start

A very exciting start is not necessarily bad. But there are a lot of reasons why the start should just be interesting, and a really exciting start probably means nothing. Prologues from the story are usually a bad sign.

Actually Reading the Book

Is this book well-written? Does it have interesting characters that you care about?

And a critical issue -- how much do you want to be "hooked". Are you reading an uninteresting book only because you want to know the ending?


Ha! Too late now. But if the author has cheated on the ending, there is always the revenge of the review.