Don’t judge the book by its cover, but maybe it’s alright to judge by its title?
Few weeks ago, a good friend invited me for an episode on her podcast where I talked about book recommendations. In our discussion she asked if I lean on reviews when deciding which book to read next. While reviews are helpful, what I then realized is that my buying decision is largely influenced by the book’s title. 99% of the time, I would buy one which title sparks curiosity and interest. In hindsight, majority of the modern authors I admire is a product of their catchy or witty book titles. It ignited my attention making it hard to walk away from the shop without their piece of work in my hand.
As an Events Producer, I write a lot of copies for marketing, website, and ads to name a few. What I find extremely challenging is to come up with a short but value-based subject line in emails, a heading to best summarize an article and a one-liner theme to capture what my agenda intend to convey to our customers. In most cases, the highest-performing output is the one with a snappy title. True enough, that short line could make or break the beauty and depth of a content. And, that might be the reason why titles hold a special place in my cognitive process when buying a book.
Books that I judged by its title (and was mistaken)
- This is going to hurt by Adam Kay
I first saw it in a Theatre ad in London last February 2019. I wanted to watch but my itinerary was full so when I saw it at Foyles, I grabbed it immediately.
What I thought it was: Fiction. A tragic love story that wouldn’t end well for its admirable characters
What it actually is: A memoir! It’s a diary of a junior doctor at the NHS who went through a tough time in his profession. Adam Kay told the story in a hilarious and entertaining way. While it’s not a tragic love story fiction I expected, this book brought me tears of sympathy!
Funnily enough, the front cover had “Diaries of a Junior Doctor” on it! For whatever reason, it was hidden before my eyes the day I bought it. Oh well, not a pinch of regret. This book served as an eye opener to me. I vowed to myself that next time I visit a doctor, I’d be a better patient!
- The Choice by Edith Eger
I saw this book at Blackwell in Oxford. I had to find a ladder so I can take it from the top of the shelf!
What I thought it was: Again, fiction. I thought it’s a classic love story inspired by the horrors of World War II, also because the book cover shows a picture of Auschwitz
What it actually is: A real story written by a holocaust survivor. While it’s not exactly a love story, I learned so much about loving and standing up for yourself when no one else would. I cried a river reading Edith Eger’s story and celebrated with her in the end as she shared her victories.
There are no words to describe this book further but this: Highly recommended.
- How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford
When Booksactually posted this book on their Instagram, it caught my attention. I knew immediately that I have to read it. I loathe racism. I’m a strong believer that no human being have the right to step on other’s cultural background or color just because they are on the other side of the spectrum. That day after work, I happened to pass by the Kinokuniya bookstore so bought it without a hint of hesitation, didn’t even bother to have it unsealed.
What I thought it was: Practical tips on how to counterargue with a racist in a diplomatic, healthy and logical way. I’ve experienced both subtle and explicit racist comments. Each time I remember those scenarios, I wish I knew better. I hoped I knew how to stand up for myself without being rude or defensive.
What it is about: Even better! It’s a hardcore explanation of why no one in this world should feel privileged because of their obvious roots. There is a thin line between being patriot and being irrationally proud of your origin. The latter can stimulate racism. This book takes the discussion in a scientific level which I appreciate very much.
Next time someone approach me wearing a racist hat on, I will no doubt give this book as gift wishing he/she will take the learning to the bone.
Now you might be thinking why did I even judge the title wrongly if I knew the genre of the section I am looking at. That’s the thing – if I knew! Majority of these books were bought overseas where I unconciously intended to get lost as I discover the bookshops I was visiting. So please, inasmuch as I judged these titles wrongly, please don’t do the same to me 🙂
Books that I judged by its title (and was right)
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Why it caught my attention: I’m not a good conversation starter. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I exert more effort than others when talking to people. That is something I would like to hone thus I decided to get this book. In my line of work, many times I need to engage in meaningful conversations to someone I am only meeting for the first time. Oh, the joy and agony of being a work in progress!
What it is about: The book nailed it. It deposited deep insights on what I should and should not do when speaking to ‘strangers’. Not only will this make first impressions less influenced by assumption and association, it will also help you develop a sense of awareness when to shut down your own biases. The book wouldn’t teach you the process or give you practical tips to be a good conversation-starter. Instead, it will help you look objectively next time you find yourselves in the need to speak to strangers.
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Why it caught my attention: I love contemplating. I enjoy analyzing situations whether they are familiar to me or not so when I saw this title it did resonate with what I like doing – thinking! In addition, psychology is one of my favorite genres.
What it is about: No less than an excellent psychology book explaining the science of thinking fast, and slow. It’s fascinating to know how our brain works under various circumstances and this book explained it in a very detailed way. It’s important to mention though – this is not an easy read! In fact one of the books that I read the longest. It took me almost two months to finish because there are chapters that I needed to read more than once, and digest more. There are so many good insights to process!
- Majority of the books in my bookshelf – thank goodness!
Hooray! Majority of the books that I judged by its title proved me right in the end and here are some of the interesting ones:
- The deals that made the world by Jacques Peretti
- Why do onions make me cry by Jay Ingram
- Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
- The hundred-year marathon (China’s secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower) by Michael Pillsbury — the subtitle is the one that caught my attention. There’s no way I’d get it if I only saw the title – back then I didn’t like running!
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- T’was the nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay –Yes, this time I judged his book correctly. It’s his diary about those shifts he had to do during the christmas season!)
- 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harrari
Whether you are a booklover or trying hard to finish one or two, I hope that you find this tip quite unique. They say every process we choose has its pros and cons. I couldn’t agree more. These selections indeed prove how I can be a good and a bad judge on the same subject – oops, no pun intended!