by Powell's Staff, November 14, 2017 10:50 AM
At first the blurbs didn’t really bother us. It’s the inside of the book that counts, after all, and some authors are downright craftsmen of succinct hyperbole. Before he retired from mass blurbing, Gary Shteyngart’s hilarious praise
earned a cult following. But once you’ve looked at enough book covers, you start to notice just how many gripping page-turners about love, loss, and redemption are on the market. Tender, unflinching portrayals of family relationships are also very popular, as are suspenseful thrillers, dark mysteries, brilliant masterpieces, delightful romps, and deeply moving portrayals that keep you up well past your bedtime.
We get it. There are only so many phrases a person can draw upon to describe a book they
loved, and writing blurbs is genuinely hard. Still, we have our standards and some blurbs cross the line. Here’s a list of descriptors that make us wince.
- Unputdownable. A horrible neologism found only in book blurbs, but now listed in every reputable dictionary. Unputdownable meet unpickupable.
- Juicy, and its sibling term, delicious.“Juicy” and “delicious” can mean anything vaguely salacious. And 99% of the time the words are found on novels marketed to women. It’s troubling that sex, gossip, food, and guilty pleasure reading are coded as female, but honestly we’re just worried about all the guys out there reading dry, tasteless books.
- Impactful. Yes, it’s a real word. But don’t you wish it wasn’t?
- Spellbinding. Muggles, watch out — wizards walk among us. And to hear publishers tell it, there are an awful lot of them.
- The next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Gone Girl. It’s a smart marketing ploy, but who wants to read the same book repeatedly? Plus, with apologies to Lev Grossman, nothing’s like Harry Potter, and calling out Game of Thrones just reminds fans how long it’s been since Martin released a new book in the series.
- A literary tour de force. The president can stop worrying about MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, because a country that churns out this many MASTERPIECES must be #1!
- Haunting. Okay, we all secretly like this one. But it’s overused and hardly ever true. How many books nag at you years after you’ve read them? Not that many, right? Probably just the tour de forces.