Top Ten Words or Topics that Instantly Make Me Buy or Pick Up a Book

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Top Ten Words or Topics that Instantly Make Me Buy or Pick Up a Book

04.30.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Every reader has a preference as to how he/she chooses a book to either read or buy. Book lovers can be quite particular. Sometimes it’s a specific genre, author, topic, or cover. Sometimes it’s due to someone’s recommendation or the strength of the publisher’s marketing. Whatever it is, it’s always a joy to add another book to a book lover’s collection.

Here are my top ten words or topics that instantly make me buy or pick up a book:

1. A book that takes place in another cultural setting other than Canada or a book that is heavily embedded or focused on a different culture other than my own.

While I haven’t had much opportunity to travel worldwide, I’m fascinated with the similarities and differences between other cultures and my own. I love being able to experience the uniqueness of a culture through its language, food, geography, religion, and day-to-day practices and interactions found not only in life, but also in the stories told beautifully in books. Some examples of books that I’ve been drawn to because of its rich examples of culture are:

the namesake cvr

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joy luck club cvr

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2. A book that expresses the struggles and tensions found in attempting to live out a reverent, authentic, religious and/or spiritual life.

Just as cultures are diverse, so are there a myriad of religions that express a reverent, authentic spirituality. As a Christian, I’m interested in reading stories about the struggles and tensions found in trying to live out an authentic faith in a mainly, secular world. Some books that I’ve been drawn to that express these kinds of stories are:

i am forbidden

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the butterfly mosque

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3. A book that expresses the political or social oppression of a country, people, religion, or sex—and through its story, emancipates not only the thoughts and preconceptions of its readers, but also its characters.

As a post-graduate of Women’s Studies and Minorities in Canadian Society, I’ve always been interested in the stories of marginalized peoples and the injustices they face. One way to identify these injustices as well as identify with those who experience them is to read about them in literature. Here are a few examples of books that have specifically stereotyped and oppressed its women characters, but also emancipate them as well as the preconceptions of its readers:

the dovekeepers3

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thousand splendid suns cvr

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4. An apocalyptic book that is just as creative as it is well-written and instructive.

Apocalyptic books are wise stories that warn us against living irresponsibly and immorally against the values we hold to be significant as a society. They are also wonderfully creative and instructive. Here are two excellent, apocalyptic novels that could very easily become a reality, should we not heed its message of environmental sustainability, corporate power, and questions of morality surrounding genetic manipulation, to name a few:

year of the flood2

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oryx and crake book cvr

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5. A book that resists and expands the definitions of love. A great love story.

What book reader doesn’t love a love story? I easily fall in love with books not only filled with passion, but stories that resist and expand on the definitions of love. They don’t necessarily have to be controversial, but I certainly prefer them to be rich, authentic, non-superficial, and stretch our thinking and ideas about love. Some examples of love stories that express this that I’ve been drawn to are:

memories of my melancholy whores cvr

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monsieur

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6. Short stories.

It’s never quantity as much as it is quality. Short stories tend to be undervalued by many readers, which is unfortunate because short stories can be just as rich, if not richer than its longer counterpart novels that span 400 to 500 pages. Sometimes less is more and I applaud writers who can craft a great short story. It isn’t easy to do. A collection of well-written short stories is always high on my list. Here are some examples of short story collections that I love:

say you're one of them

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this will be difficult to explain

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7.  A book that is highly creative and imaginative that it not only stretches our way of thinking, but it’s either classified as fantasy or a science-fiction novel.

Have you ever read a book that makes you think, “How did the author come up with that? WOW!” Well, those are the kinds of books that usually end up on my shelves. Here are some examples of books that are highly creative and imaginative:

night circus

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1Q84

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8. Paranormal Young Adult book.

No, I’m not a young adult. But, say the words, “vampire” and “book” in the same sentence and something in me just lurches forward in excitement. Or how about “fae?” Fine, I confess: I read the entire Twilight series in five days. And I know who Julie Kagawa is, even if I’m over the age of 30.  If it isn’t a normal, it’s most likely interesting, right? There’s something wonderful about fantasy, mystical powers, and those inevitable cliff hangers. Though, I haven’t read a lot of paranormal young adult books, they certainly find themselves magically on my shelves. Here are a few examples of paranormal young adult books that I just had to pick up and buy:

immortal rules

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discovery of witches

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9. Poetry.

For me, poetry is a deep image that resonates an equally deep truth. It’s a lyrical or beautiful expression in any stylistic form that attempts to capture what is withheld or unknown—and then becomes known in a startling moment. It’s a dialogue of absence and otherness, a sort of secret map that is intrinsically powerful in its ability to connect us through language, image, and understanding. For me, poetry is a subtle epiphany that resonates in a real and true way to its reader. Here are some of the best poetry books that I’ve read and am privileged to own:

blizzard of one cvr

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best american poetry 2011 cvr

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10. Publisher, author, or cover.

Yes, yes. Scold me. Sometimes I simply pick up a book because I trust its publisher, respect its author, or simply adore the aesthetic of its cover design. It makes for a light-hearted and spontaneous way to choose a book. Not always the wisest, but sometimes the most fun. Here are examples of publishers that I trust, authors I respect, and book covers that I had to add to my personal collection:

McClellandStewartLogo

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elizabeth hay books - collage

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vanessa and virginia

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What compels you to pick up and buy a book?

From the above list, are there any there that you and I share in common?

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5 thoughts on “Top Ten Words or Topics that Instantly Make Me Buy or Pick Up a Book”

  1. Nice list! I’m with you on a lot of these (although I don’t generally read short stories or poetry). I love dystopian books that are as well-written as they are compelling. I’m also intrigued by books about different cultures/religions, especially those seen as “secret” or “oppressive.” I just always find it interesting to learn about them.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Susan! It’s great to see how others choose the books they read. I’m really drawn to stories that take place in Asia and India right now!

  2. Great list! #1 and #5 definitely! I love stories that immerse me in a foreign culture, especially India, the Middle East, ancient/imperial China, and imperial Japan! And I love, love, love a story of non-romantic/non-sexual love – all those different kinds of deep, complex love that we don’t really have words for.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Terri. So glad you could join me here. I agree with you on all points! I’m looking forward to reading “The Blind Man’s Garden” by Nadeem Aslam soon once I finish “Mount Pleasant” by Don Gillmor. 😀

  3. I like books about writers, so Vanessa & Virginia caught my eye right there at the end, but so many of your other selections are also intriguing! I share a lot of your preferences, especially #7.

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