What makes someone buy a book? (or a DVD or a CD or anything else, for that matter…) What is the ‘key factor’ in motivating someone to move from looking to purchasing? The marketing and advertising industries work hard at identifying that elusive ‘je ne sais quoi’ and luring consumers to buy the wares of clients who pay them a fortune to translate curiosity into hard cash. With regards to a book, is it the cover which catches the eye? The name of an established author? The genre? The format? The price? All these things probably matter. But I can think of two books I bought for the same reason alone: the title.
The first book I bought for this reason is called ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, a novel by Mark Haddon written from the viewpoint of fifteen-year-old Christian, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t normally even look at books in that genre and had never heard of Mark Haddon as an author. It was the title alone, with its literary allusion to Sherlock Holmes, which made me pick up the book in a shop. I actually don’t like the cover much and was not even that impressed by the announcement ‘Winnner Whitbread Book of the Year’, since many ‘classics’ leave me cold. But the title drew me in and I was curious enough to buy the book. I loved it. I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve not read it, but suffice to say, if you have ever worked with a young person with Asperger’s or needed insight into how differently other people can think, this is the book for you.
Apparently that phrase was first used by James Joyce, a hundred years ago, but I was not drawn in by any literary allusion this time, not even by the ‘fireworks’ style of the cover, though I did quite like the idea of revelation being like luminescent fireworks. It was the juxtaposition of the two nouns which drew me. ‘Epiphanies’ – ‘a manifestation of a divine being, or any sudden and important manifestation or realisation’, from the Greek epiphanainein, ‘commonly used in the singular to mean the Christian festival observed on 6 January commemorating (in the Western church) the manifestration of Jesus to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi.’ (adapted from the Shorter English Dictionary, 2002) The whole idea of such revelation, such ‘unveiling’, being found in the ordinary made me pick up the book and want to read it.
I don’t know if I am a ‘typical reader’ or if any advertising guru is interested in those reasons for choosing books. But I am certainly enjoying this new book as it explores ‘powerful encounters with God’ and had to smile at the opening chapter, which began (exactly as I had done before opening it!) with a dictionary definition and then went on to talk about the need to ‘stop, look and listen’. Now where have I heard that before?!