How to Open a New Book

Redheaded girl reading a book.I recently received the latest installment in The Stormlight Archive. (If you’re not familiar with the series, ask—or don’t. You could get drawn into a loooong conversation about Brandon Sanderson.) My giddiness at receiving the book knew almost no bounds. A book that weighs at least three pounds? Yes! Twelve-hundred-plus pages? Sign me up!

Once the initial delight dissipated, I opened the book. The happiness came rushing back because the book’s interior contains as much pleasure as the exterior. However, that results from a pattern: I open a new book according to a process. I thought I’d share it here in hopes of inducing amusement or a greater enjoyment in reading.

Instructions for Opening a New Book

  1. Open and smell. I like the smell of old books. I also like the smell of new books. Drop me at a bookstore and wait for it—I’ll draw in a breath to capture the scent of books on the air.
  2. Open and look at the interior covers. Not all inside covers claim illustrations, but Sanderson’s Oathbringer does. As a matter of fact, so does his Arcanum Unbounded.
  3. Open and find the maps. Most fantasy novels include detailed maps. Some of these come before any front matter; others, directly before the prologue or first chapter. (My still-reigning favorite comes from Fforde’s Thursday Next series.)
  4. Open and read the dedication. Some authors write clever dedications. Other write ones directed to a specific person or audience.
  5. Open and explore the acknowledgements and introductions. Some authors write one, both, or neither. Sanderson’s latest acknowledgements include his recommendation to read Edgedancer before starting Oathbringer. Neil Gaiman’s introductions, particularly with his short story collections, might as well be counted as an additional story.
  6. Open and consider other front matter. Some authors introduce their books through poetry and notable or obscure quotations. The words provide an extra layer of meaning in which to situate the book.
  7. Open and look for more art. Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive contains magnificent artwork, from heralds to fashion, and from maps to fantastical creatures. Other authors intersperse their words with images or, at the very least, employ intricate chapter icons. As someone who writes and draws, the combined mediums thrill me to no end.

There you go, how to open a new book. Do you have a process for examining purchased books? Share it in the comments or on social.

Image: Andy Carter (Creative Commons)

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