Our ability to get books from libraries across the state through the Serving Every Ohioan Consortium (SEO) is amazing. The other day I was searching for copies of Aesop’s fables (hopefully you know about the upcoming fundraiser!), and ran across this book in the catalog: Aesop’s Mirror by Maryalice Huggins. The brief description reads, “An antiques restorer describes her discovery of a rare American fox-and-grapes mirror at a country auction, a finding for which she was challenged to research and prove the object’s authenticity in the male-dominated antiques arena.”
Disclaimer: I am a librarian who judges a book by its cover. I also hardly ever read the jacket flap to decide if I’m going to read something (they give away too much information!). Instead, I evaluate by the cover, the title, the first few lines or paragraphs, familiarity with the author, book reviews, word of mouth, or back cover blurbs from other authors I like. If Richard Russo blurbs you, for example, I’m probably going to read your book.
When Aesop’s Mirror burbled to the top of my to-be-read pile a week or so later, I jumped right in without reading the jacket or even remembering what made me think it’d be an interesting book in the first place. I was a good 100 pages in before I realized I wasn’t reading a novel. To me, that says something about the writing. It’s engaging and tells a story without dry textbook explanations. It’s a book I probably wouldn’t have read on purpose.
Due to my habit of avoiding book descriptions, it happens often that I start reading a book that turns out to be something I wasn’t expecting. Years ago I read The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven as a novel before I discovered it was actually a series of short stories (all related with reoccurring characters, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch).
At a previous job, the library distinguished certain types of books from others with a small dot on the spine. Gentle Reads (books that avoid adult language and situations) were indicated with an orange dot. Mysteries had a red dot. It’s not hard to imagine a red dot becoming faded to the point of appearing orange and indeed, more than once, I checked out an orange-dot book expecting a mystery. I don’t have anything against Gentle Reads, but I’m not the target audience. I wondered about the orange-dot readers who inadvertently stumbled into a red dot book. Were they shocked or pleasantly surprised?
So, I’m accidentally reading a nonfiction book. It probably won’t be the last time. I like a surprise every now and then. And, by the way, if you’re an antiques junkie, you might enjoy Aesop’s Mirror. It pulls the curtain back on the amount of work that goes into proving an item’s worth.