Yes, it’s true. Some books are prettier than others. Some books draw you in by their superficial beauty – their covers. The following are all books I picked up based on their design. I didn’t know anything about them before I saw them. The flirtatious covers drew me in but I was seduced by their smart plots. I took them home and immediately began reading. The most satisfying moment was when I realized I would be rereading them.
Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour translated from Farsi
This novel has four major characters: the couple, the writer, and the censor. Mandanipour writes about a love story that is censored; the entire story is there, but he draws a line through the sentences that would be deleted had the book been published in Iran. The censor appears and falls in love with the girl who ends up confronting the author. The fourth wall is torn down but somehow it works.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami translated from Japanese
Every year 42 classmates are chosen and sent to an island where they have to fight to the death.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon translated from Spanish
Set in post-Spanish Civil War, a young boy’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and he adopts one to care for until he dies. He becomes curious and looks for other books written by the same author; however, someone is systematically destroying them. It reads like a Victorian gothic novel with a villain that could be human or otherworldly.
Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni
Born in Palo Alton, California, Moaveni is a journalist dreaming of returning to the Tehran of her childhood. After moving she discovers that she doesn’t belong in Tehran anymore than she belongs in Palo Alto. She is a strong independent woman who struggles to find a balance between her culture and staying true to herself. She writes candidly of the youth in Tehran and how the older and younger generations clash over social interactions, marriage, and fashion.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist translated from Swedish
A vampire novel about a young boy who is bullied and makes friends with an androgynous neighbor. It was made into a Swedish movie and then an American movie. I was unaware of it’s existence until I saw this cover with the androgynous child. That’s all I needed.
Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron translated from Hebrew
This black humor has two narrators, a Jewish man whose career is focused on increasing job productivity through efficiency and a Palestinian suicide bomber who is in a coma. The efficiency expert narrowly misses being blown up by bombers three separate times and as he symbolizes the strength of the Jewish people he becomes a sore spot and a target for the Palestinian bombers.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery translated from French
A young girl decides that her life will never get better than it already is and vows to kill herself before her 13th birthday. A homely widow is the concierge in an upscale apartment building; she’s brilliant but fears letting anyone realize her intelligence. They form a friendship and both their worlds are forever changed when a Japanese businessman moves into the building.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Of course I’ve heard of Steve Martin, but I never watched his movies or cared to look at his books. The cover drew me in immediately. It’s so beautiful and the dust jacket paper is delicious to touch. A young woman and her friend begin their careers in the art scene as writer and gallery owner. (After reading this I picked up all his other novels and will always be a loyal fan.)
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
A pregnant narrator moves back to her hometown the same day a huge monster’s corpse is discovered in the town’s lake. She hopes to hide out quietly but instead her mother sets her on a search for a family secret that leads to voices from their history.
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson
A fifteen year old girl hates reading but loves her best friend who does. Her wealthy parents commission a book to be written for her 16th birthday party. I love the characters, the plot, and the language. I felt like I was reading something by a female F. Scott Fitzgerald or John Knowles, but it is definitely not an exploitation of their novels. It’s as creative as the title.