There’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening a book and plunging into a new story! However, before getting to the meat of the book, there may be some pages of introductory material. Should I read these or not? Prefaces are optional to me, depending on the type of book. I love any book that has a map in the front, and I’ll definitely take the time to look over any list of characters that’s provided (thank you Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall). One of my favorite items to look for is an epigraph. Epigraphs are those short quotations or sayings that usually fall right after the dedication page. Epigraphs often serve as a sort of teaser, a foreshadowing of the book’s theme. The epigraph gives me something to ponder as I begin the book and I often go back after finishing the book to see how this quotation relates to the story.
It turns out that epigraphs are popular items to collect on the Internet. Here are just a couple of the web pages I found with collections:
As an example, the epigraph from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury seems to be a favorite with many people:
“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” — Juan Ramón Jiménez
With epigraphs on the mind, I searched through the New Release shelves at the Aurora Public Library and found these examples. I hope that they will inspire you to check out one of these books.
The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – Oscar Wilde
Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman
“But even on her the Fates
The gray everlasting Fates rode hard.” – Sophocles, “Antigone”
The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas
“Never along that range is ease:
Things are warped that are too near heaven.” – Belle Turnbull, “Forward”
The Killing Kind by Chris Holm
“Never is there any law more just, than that he who has plotted death shall perish by his own plot.” – Ovid
The Man Without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates
“The annihilation is not the terror. The journey is the terror.” – Elihu Hoopes
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
“A particularly beautiful woman is a source of terror.” – Carl Jung
Find a Way by Diana Nyad
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mark Oliver from The Summer Day
Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story by Jewel
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
Teen books do not seem to use as many epigraphs. Perhaps the authors just want the readers to dive right in! Here are a few examples from teen books either on the New Release Shelf or the Eliot Rosewater shelf.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
“I thought I could organize freedom. How Scandinavian of me.” – Bjork
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
“It was not darkness that fell from the air. It was brightness.” – James Joyce from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
“As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” Ernest Hemingway
Does the book you’re reading now have an epigraph? If so, post it in the comments for us. Happy reading!