The Page 69 Test: Judging books by a single page.

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Anne at The Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote today about the Page 69 Test that she heard about in a recent podcast by Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan that is supposed to help you decide if a book is worth your time. The idea is pretty straightforward:

When you’re trying to decide if you should read a book, turn to page 69. If you like it, you’ll likely like the rest of the book, too. If you don’t like it, that book’s not for you.

Immediately intrigued, I grabbed a pile of books that I’ve been sitting on for years and dragged them over to my computer where I will now live-blog my reactions to eight books that at one point I *really* wanted to read but for one reason or another I haven’t gotten around to yet.

The Good Daughter by Jane Porter: I won this in a book giveaway a couple months ago, got really excited, and then essentially lost it in a pile on my desk. I knew it was there, but I’d have to clean my desk to actually get to it so there it sat. This book definitely passed the page 69 test for me. As always, I love Porter’s rich descriptions and characters who feel instantly well rounded. This is a book that should be upstairs on my nightstand, not taking up space buried under papers on my desk!

Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: My book club will be discussing this in January so now is a good time to get an idea of how into it I’ll be (and how much time I think I’ll need to read it). I’m definitely intrigued after reading page 69 but it’s obviously much drier than the fiction books I tend to read (though not as dry as a lot of nonfiction can be), so I should probably start reading it soon (probably after I finish the book I’m currently reading) if I want to finish it in time.

Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner: a sequel to These Is My Words, which my book club read awhile back. I can remember it taking me awhile to get into These Is My Words but once I did I really loved it. This one definitely didn’t pull me in as quickly as the others, the writing is a bit slower to digest and it felt immediately obvious that I was unaware of something important that wasn’t being fully explained at all. I won’t give up on this one, but I won’t rush to read it either.

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb: This book is supposed to be crazy good but it’s enormous, and thus I’ve never gotten the nerve to actually attempt to read it despite all the high praise it’s gotten. So, I can tell that this book is well written but the subject matter didn’t really draw me in or compel me so much as turn on the warning light in my brain that says “this one may not be for you.” If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, but I am genuinely considering passing it on to a used bookstore or the library.

The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: This one is on my mental Must Read in 2014 list so I’m hoping it passes the page 69 test. I got the distinct feeling after reading page 69, which appeared the be a transcript from a court trial, that it was not necessarily an indicator of the entire book – at least I hoped not, because it was pretty dry – I decided to break the rules slightly and flipped ahead just two more pages and found that the book was now in a more normal dialogue and much more interesting. I hope the book doesn’t disappoint me.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake: This book’s plot sounded so promising that when I found it on clearance a few years back, I immediately splurged for it and then like a lot of my books, I forgot all about it. I really loved the writing style of this one – it pulled me in right away and had me wanting to flip to the beginning and start right away – very promising, this one may need to move up to my nightstand also.

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi: When I first heard about this memoir, I was impatient to read it until the book was actually in my hands and I realized the heavy subject matter that I would find inside and that the subject matter was real and actually happened and then I completely faltered and couldn’t bring myself to actually read it. I actually really enjoyed this page, enough so that when I came to the end of the page but not the end of the sentence, I turned the page to finish reading and then kept reading some more. I think I should give this one a shot.

Finally, Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire: Why do I keep buying all the books in this series when I haven’t actually finished Wicked Yet? I have several of these books on my shelf and haven’t read any of them. Now I remember why I haven’t finished Wicked yet. It’s clear that there is an interesting story underneath the many layers of adjectives and made up words but even just one page of this book had my head spinning. I am not bailing completely on this one but I remain unconvinced.

I have to tell you, I am tempted to take this party upstairs and read page 69 of every unread book on my shelves. It would be a very efficient way to clear through the piles of books in our home, that’s for sure!

How many books do you think would pass the page 69 test?

Do you think there is any true merit to this idea?

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