I saw on a blog at The Guardian that in John Sutherland's book, How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide, the author says that you can tell whether you'll enjoy a book or not by reading page 69. So I took five books off my shelf--three I've read and two I haven't--to see if this is true of these books. Of course, it's not full proof. But it's fun. Here goes:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Page 69 of the Wordsworth Classics version I own puts us in the scene where Jane visits her one and only friend, Helen, in the sick room. This particular section helps set the scene that this is not a sunshine and lollipops type of book. Would this page alone make me want to read the book? I'd probably give it a try, not expecting to like it as much as I would. Although page 69 is good (as all the pages of Jane Eyre are), it certainly doesn't give justice to this classic.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Phew. Yes, this page would make me want to read this book. I don't even remember who the characters on this page are, but the dialogue is intriguing and mentions the murder of the Clutter family. It does a great job of showing the grief that the town went through after the tragedy.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
I figured most people have read this (and if you haven't, go read it now). In the version I own, we find Jem and Scout discussing whether or not they should write a letter to the person leaving gifts in the know of the tree down the street from their house. It's not an especially intriguing passage, but it does a good job of showing the relationship between Jem and Scout. Like Jane Eyre, this page would encourage me to read the book, but it's doesn't show just how good the book is going to be.
I have not read these:
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
Page 69 is the first page of a chapter, so half of it is blank. It's quite interesting because it's about Virginia Woolf as she is writing a book. One sentence in particular makes me want to finish this book: One always has a better book in one's mind than one can manage to get onto paper.
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
This is a pretty good passage. It's written in first person and the character is resisting someone who is trying to give him a pill. Apparently he's been injured, so I'm interested to see what happened. However, it doesn't seem like a page-turner, but quite possibly a good book nonetheless.
Well, that was fun. I'll have to try it sometime when I'm at a bookstore and just need a book to read. It's probably more useful than reading the back of book, since most of the space is taken up by one sentence reviews and the author bio.