People not in publishing wonder about the quotes on the back books (especially recently when a couple retracted their blurbs). No one in publishing really knows how effective they are, but they evidently can’t come up with better idea of what to put on the back of a book before it’s reviewed, so there it is. I’m not a fan of them, mainly because they’re boring. Though check out frank mccourt’s almost tipsy-sounding rhapsody to Molly O’Neill, we need more like that; actually all those blurbs are unusually candid and interesting; reading most blurbs you’d think writers who penned them were high school math teachers (that's not a judgment on the later, the best of whom I have more respect for than I do for most of the former). The best chefs are generous with their food and likewise with their words; they gladly blurb their colleagues' books through an assistant, and I don’t criticize them for this. I have met only one chef who I know actually reads the galleys and comments in her own words; she is a great writer herself: Judy Rodgers, about whom I have much to say, but later. My personal blurb rules are basic and seem pretty obvious: only blurb a book you’ve read and only blurb a book you would recommend without reservation. That these obvious rules are not always followed is why, as far as I’m concerned, blurbs don’t mean what they might.