Thursday, May 28, 2009

Judging a book by its title

Yes, I know the old adage about books and covers, but let’s be honest; you can often tell exactly what a book is by the message the publisher puts out with the cover. (White or canary yellow with cotton-candy pink or green script? Chick lit. Dark navy blue or black with bold silver type? Political thriller…you get the point.) I often judge whether I want to read a book exactly because of the cover. Sometimes, the same thing applies for titles.

I was recently looking at the books that have been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial prize, the UK's oldest literary awards. One of the titles absolutely jumped out at me: A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. With a title like that, I felt that I absolutely must read this book. The novel has been compared to Joseph Heller's Catch 22, and the comparison is apt. It is an eviscerating look at the elite of the Pakistani military in 1988, surrounding the real airplane crash that killed the dictator General Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq, many of the top generals, and the US ambassador to Pakistan. As for how the case of mangoes plays in? You'll have to go beyond the title for that.


Anonymous said...

I am often confused by the titles of the books I read and often get to the very end and go "AHA!" I have always wanted to write my own book , but I would never be able to come up with a title.

Sarah Sanders said...

I completely agree with choosing a book based on the looks of the cover. Is this the ideal way of choosing a book, but really there exists no true way of choosing a book. A year ago I had to choose between 20 books to read for a school assignment.

I narrowed the list from 20 to ten based on the hearsay of what my teacher commented to us about the books.

The list when from ten to five after I read the summaries for myself.

I shortened the list from five to three based off how much I liked the title.

However, I choose the winning book based off the cover, or the vibe I felt from it. The story was The History of Love . The cover was a beautiful baby blue color that reminded you of the ocean, and gave the viewer such a serene feeling when they viewed it.

I got to admit that I also chose the book because it was called The History of Love because I admit that I am a hopeless romantic and thought the title was some endearing love story.

Haha, I was half right. But after I got pass my disappointment I found the truth depth and beauty behind the stories of the characters who were seemingly separate people that are in fact interconnected by one man's lost love. The cover was indeed as beautiful as the story within.