And what usually catches my eye is the pictures in a non-ficton book.
I do read the blurb, and skim the prologue and read the first few lines – but I always go to the pictures first.
I know some authors say that pictures in a non-fiction book are not necessary. But I feel they are.
Looking at the pictures tells me what the book is about – a book about Queen Victoria’s court where the pictures are all of politicians tells me the book will be all about very serious politics, and not some of the more light hearted gossip.
And they can tell me how much research has gone into the books. Like the biography of Charlotte Bronte that managed to find two actual photos of her. Or the book I read recently that had a portrait of Katherine Howard – I’ve been obsessed by the Tudors since I was 18, and had seen nearly all the royal portraits, and knew there wasn’t supposed to be one of Katherine – so the fact that the author found one showed she’d really done her research, and gone back to the original papers.
And finally – the pictures themselves show who the people are. It’s impossible to write about Queen Elizabeth, who knew how to create an iconic image, and not show us the actual, meaningful portraits she comissioned. Even just seeing a snapshot of someone lends all kinds of clues to their characters, and lets us draw our own conclusions from the subject’s face.
A picture paints a thousand words they say. And an author can describe Anne Boleyn’s beauty till the cows come home, but only a glimpse of her haunting portrait will show us how fascinating she was.
Which is why I think, if you are writing a non-fiction book, especially history, biography or crime, you should put lots of pictures in. Just for me.