I’ll bet you’ve had the experience of reading a book (or part of one) only to wonder why you’d wasted your time. I know I have. And with all of the great books out there, it makes no sense to read (or finish reading) books that aren’t worth the effort. The problem is, though, that most of us don’t have a lot of time available to decide whether we want to read a book or not.
Wouldn’t it be nice if books came with simple labels that could help you make that choice? Ever civic-minded, I’ve come up with an idea that I think would help a lot: a series of easy-to-understand symbols that could be placed on books. Here are a few I had in mind. I know you’ll think of others:
This symbol is the ‘drunk and dysfunctional’ symbol. It tells you that the protagonist is a demon-haunted detective who can’t get beyond personal problems. Readers who want to avoid such protagonists need only glance at this little icon… and move on. Readers who like this sort of detective can explore the book further.
This symbol is the ‘damsel in distress’ symbol. You know the sort of book, I’m sure. The helpless female is trapped by the villain, or can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Or the killer preys on beautiful young (and careless) women. One look at this icon, and readers who prefer strong female characters will know to look elsewhere for a good read.
This useful little icon is especially for the benefit of readers who don’t care much for a lot of violence or a very high ‘body count.’ Yes, it’s the ‘body count’ symbol. And it’s all you’d need to alert you that you may want to shower after you read to remove the gore.
Related to that icon is this one: the ‘psychopathic serial killer’ symbol. Some readers don’t mind books about serial killers. But if you’re fed up with them, and prefer other kinds of plots, this icon will let you know that you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for your next read.
Some readers don’t mind suspending their disbelief – or even letting it move out for a while. But a lot of readers prefer not to do that. Wondering whether the book you’re considering will stretch credibility too far? Look no further than this handy ‘Improbability’ icon. You’ll know right away that the book will probably end whatever relationship you have with your disbelief.
A lot of readers would like some originality in the plots of their books. Admittedly, there aren’t that many credible motives for murder, for instance. But there are always ways to make a story a little different – something new. The trouble is, there are a lot of books out there that use the same plots over and over again. That’s why I designed this symbol – the ‘recycled plot’ icon. It’s all you’d need to let you know that you’ve read this story before, just with different names.
And then there’s the matter of characters. A lot of readers prefer character-driven novels. And even those who like other kinds of books probably like solid, rounded characters. If you’re not sure whether the book you’re thinking of getting has those characters, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to check for this symbol, the ‘cardboard cutout’ icon? It’d tell you in an instant that these characters are one- or two-dimensional.
Of course, many books are excellent reads. They have well-rounded characters and appealing plots. They keep the reader engaged, and are well worth the effort and time it takes to read them. Want to know which those are? This symbol, the ‘TBR Warning’ icon, would be very helpful, I think. Not only would you know this was a book worth exploring, but also, you’d be reminded to think of the many books you still haven’t got to yet…
So what do you think? Should we adopt a set of icons like this? Which ones would you add?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from John Sebastian’s Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?