This terrific t-shirt can be found here.
I take this a step or two further. Ideally, this is what I know about a book going into it:
- the title
- the author
Obviously, this makes it hard to pick out books, so I do let things like recommendations and genre and the premise affect my choices. But most of the books I've really, really loved, part of the charm is that the book unfolds exactly as the author intended, because I'm not waiting for "that part where" or "the character who" or anything except what brilliance the author has in store for me. So if I'm reading the inside cover and the first two sentences grab my attention, that's all I need.
Here's a few examples of how this has worked out for me recently:
A. I'm working my way through Jasper Jones. I'd seen it on some list or other, added it to my TBR, and grabbed a copy for my classroom at a library used book sale. One of my seventh graders checked it out, then returned it because his mom objected to the language. I slapped a PG-13 sticker on it and put it aside to read for myself this summer.
Things that I did not know when I started reading the book, all of which, it turns out, are on the book jacket:
- The book is set in Australia, and the author is Australian.
- The book is set in 1965.
- It starts with the discovery of a murdered body.
This is pretty basic info to not have. It took me a bit to work out the time period, but I loved being tossed into the story all willy-nilly, wondering about Charlie's town, horrified at Jasper's discovery, eager to find out what would happen next.
B. I've been wanting to read Furiously Happy for months. That grinning, gleeful racoon on the cover just drew me in. But I had NO IDEA that the racoon is not just some wacky illustration--Jenny Lawson OWNS it, and taxidermied animals play a surprisingly large role in the book as a whole.
C. All I knew about Pax was that it had a cool cover with a fox on it, and people seemed to love it. Turns out that the book is set in some undefined time and place and that the POV alternates from the fox's to the boy who raised him. Who knew? Probably everyone except me.
I can't honestly say it would have affected my enjoyment of any of these stories if I'd known these basic background facts going in. None are plot points per se. But I love that sense of figuring things out, of trusting the author to give me what I need to know. Yes, I can wind up with duds that way, but we all do, right? The trade-off is when I enter a world and am completely bewildered, but the author leads me step by step to complete understanding. I love the feeling of being in the hands of a master, of knowing that all of my confusion will be cleared up and this will all make sense.
So tell me, what do you think about this? Am I just weird? How much information do you like to have going into a book? If someone says, "Gone Girl has a terrific twist?" are you pissed off because now you'll spend the book waiting for the twist, or are you simply intruiged? (No problem guessing which camp I was in, huh.) Or do you scour reviews carefully and gather as much information as you can before deciding whether or not to read a book? Or, like me, do you only read reviews AFTER you've finished the book, to find out how the book struck others? Do preconceptions color your attitude about a book? DID YOU REFUSE TO WATCH THE CRYING GAME BECAUSE EVERYONE SAID THE GIRL WAS A GUY ALREADY SO WHAT WAS THE POINT EVEN OF WATCHING IT NOW?!? Or is that just me?