I cringe every time I see the book I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, which is a lot considering it’s in my Libro.fm library. It’s pretty safe to assume that the title and cover are meant to evoke a strong, immediate response. What: A+ job. It’s no joke as the book focuses on McCurdy’s life as a child star, a dream her mother has and the abuse she has endured. It’s a reminder of growing up with an abusive parent and healing, the boundaries we deserve between our abusers, and many issues we don’t speak openly enough about. But before you even read the book, the title Conversations begins.
With that title floating around in my head, I started thinking about book titles and covers that would not only instantly draw a person in, but also start a conversation. The books left on your coffee table, read in public, and/or sitting on your desk at work would prompt someone to ask a question. Or tell a story. Or evoke a memory that caused them to open up in some way. This is of course subjective as everyone brings their own lived story to situations, but these are some covers that made me think of the conversations they could, have, or should start. There are collections of poetry, horror, non-fiction, and even a picture book. There are so many conversations to be had.
Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones
I mean, an apocalyptic title in itself seems like a conversation starter in a world that has become increasingly hostile to people of color and marginalized people since 2016, which then had a nice pandemic blanket thrown over it. But that’s not all! I have questions! There’s a person in a space helmet? And an orange-is-the-new-black outfit? Pushing a navigator-shining car? I want to talk about the world that this very scene is in and where we fit in – or don’t.
100 Animals That May Fuck You Kill by Mamadou Ndiaye
This is a bucket of popcorn and a skinny title. Surely there are people who will read this title and immediately raise their hand with a story of a time an animal screwed them – obviously it didn’t END them since they told the story, but you get it. Also, the cover has the obvious alligator (or crocodile, I don’t know) and the scorpion, but there’s a beak on it, kind of like a bird. Have you ever been chased by an angry peacock fighting your car’s hubcap? Because I have it and I know I can’t mess with them. And I’ve seen people run away from geese like they’re at the Olympics. Which animals shouldn’t you mess with?
Your emergency contact experienced an emergency from Chen Chen
This is THE scariest title ever. Serious. Is there a protocol for this? What if both you and your emergency contact are in an emergency at the same time and neither can answer the call? Is there anyone who volunteers to be an emergency contact? What if someone listed you as an emergency contact without you even knowing?! I don’t like this conversation.
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The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
Let’s go literal here and ask: how much does blood weigh? Okay, I just went to Google – my search history is such a mess please ignore me NSA – and the first hit was how much blood weighs in a human body. If you imagine that we once lived in a world where you would have to go to the library or know a scientist to maybe get an answer. Anyway, who was the first to weigh blood and most importantly, why? Is there a blood fetish?
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett
Don’t judge me: I’m equally hungry and curious. Is this like an apocalypse prediction, or do you just put on your helmet and bib and grab a knife and fork on your way out? Do vegans have to stay at home? Are there vegan meatballs? – the internet says yes and claims that many are THE BEST. Should everyone switch to red and brown clothing? Seems like white clothing is going out of fashion instantly – no more arguing about whether white matters after Labor Day.
I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee, translated by Anton Hur
My brain had two thoughts at once (yes, that’s possible): Is this non-fiction or fiction?; I need to find a picture of Tteokbokki. Answers: “Therapy memoirs”; Korean rice cakes. Part of my brain wants to have a whole conversation about the history of this dish, where it’s most popular (I know it’s in Korea, but is it street food? Is it eaten in certain areas?), and how many variations there are. And the other part wants to talk about mental illness and mental health and how badly we as a society need to get to a place where it can be discussed with the level of worthlessness as the common cold.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
I knew immediately what that title of being Latina meant, but I wondered how many people didn’t know that. It also made me think of a few families I knew whose parents always took separate flights when going to the same destination, even on family vacations. There are things that, at least in my life, I have only experienced with Latin Americans. When you’re on a plane filled with mostly Hispanics, the second the wheels hit the ground, there’s a sudden, collective smack that fills the cabin. I’m not sure why it always makes me emotional – in a good way.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
And of course the title that inspired this post.
Now, if you want to laugh while discussing book covers, you might want to take a look at The Worst Covers of Classic Books.