Blurbs - Shortest? Yes. Cleverest? Quite possibly.

Posted by Guy Pringle, 9th March 2011

People are often dismissive of book blurbs - what appears on the outside back cover of a book - but few realise how much thought is put into what you read there. Like the front cover, it has the briefest of chances to persuade you to buy that book as opposed to all the others on display.

Most book groups I've sat in take issue with the publisher's often grandiose claims but the intention is not to be a full and frank reflection of the book's premise. Instead it has to excite or intrigue you in to approaching the till book in hand.

So I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for the blurb on one of our currently featured books - The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee. All it says - in a quite large scrawl - is "Read page 29". Underneath is a smear of red  - blood perhaps? - for emphasis and that's it. So yes, undoubtedly the shortest I've ever seen and yes, the cleverest ploy to get you inside the book.

I think it's page 69 that Professor John Sutherland uses as his litmus test for whether a book is worth the investment of the time you commit to reading a book. By then the plot and characters should be sufficiently established but are not so far advanced that they are incomprehensible. So perhaps page 29 is a little early to make such a decision - unless you've tried it in The Surrendered, in which case I suspect like me, you'll be hooked.

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