Admit it: there's at least one fail-proof cue out there that is guaranteed to get you to pick up a book. A time period, a cover image, a setting, a theme—everyone has a trigger. Sometimes the book delivers, sometimes it doesn't, but either way you're going to at least give it a try.

Paging through the Crown catalog turned up one for me—A Man in Uniform, which goes on sale December 28. It set off the following alarms:

  • Paris setting! and not just Paris, but Belle Epoque Paris

  • Uses a fascinating piece of history (in this instance, the Dreyfus case) as a plot point

  • Comparison to A.S. Byatt (admittedly, this is just as likely to work against the author if I pick the book up and find only so-so writing)

OK, I've shared some of my many weaknesses—now, what are yours?

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