I judge books by their covers

I have a bone to pick with the world. It’s about the phrase: ‘Never judge a Book by its cover’. Before I launch into my rant (and this will be a rant), I should mention that when applied to people, this phrase makes perfect sense. It is wrong to dismiss someone due to their appearance etc etc.

However, when applied to actual books, this phrase grates on me. We all judge books by their covers. Don’t lie to me, I know you have. Picture this. You’re in a bookshop, wandering around the sections looking for something new to buy. You narrow it down to a certain section. How do you choose ‘blindly’ (i.e. if you’re not basing your decisions on buying authors you know are good, books recommended to you, best sellers etc). The cover.  The cover will matter because it will speak to you- it’s not about the ‘beauty’ of it i.e. it’s not about whether it’s been well produced or not, it’s about what it says. If you see an old battered copy of something made of vellum-like paper and you’re in to old books, you’re probably going to pick it up. If you’re in to fantasy and there’s a magnificent sketch of a dragon, don’t tell me that you don’t pick it up. If you see a vampire on the cover you may enter a fit of rage and simply burn the book right there. But I digress.

The covers of books are like clothes, not personalities. They are the book’s ‘sunday best’. That doesn’t mean that bad covers mean bad books, or that good covers make good ones, or that books should or are chosen purely on the merit of their cover, but after all to judge means: to form an opinion or evaluation. And in those first faltering moments of choice and indecision, we do make a judgement. Of course this is quickly superceeded by whether the title is good or not, reading the blurb and (in my case) the first chapter. And much like people we may find that a pretty face (whether in shiny new 20th century form or in crumbling, gorgeous old-book fun) masks an emptiness and general boredom, but the judgement is still made in that moment before you pick  up the book.

I know that this seems rather pedantic- after all, I am making only a slight distinction in relation to the very initial, two second judgement that we make of a book, rather than actually forming an opinion of the book based on its appearance- which I am sure that no self-respecting book lover would actually do. But ultimately, I cannot help but think that book covers do play a huge part in making blind book decisions. Rant over. BookBimbo out.


10 Comments to “I judge books by their covers”

  1. I’ve bought books because they’ve had awesome covers before. I’m into fantasy and sci-fi, and when I see cover art by Michael Whelan or John Palencar, I know it’s a book that I’m probably going to like. I’m a sucker for cover art that’s an actually painting, not just photo manipulation.

  2. You’ve got a point about book covers. I rarely look closely at a book cover, but it has all of my attention if the cover’s bad. I mean, if you’re going to go out of your way to create a book cover, why not go all in and make a good one, instead of filching an image from the public domain and plastering badly-kerned Papyrus font all over it? I’ve been incredibly frustrated with that lately, as I get most of my books on a Nook now (power word: tiny apartment), and if there’s so little effort put into the COVER, then what’s inside?

    Now granted, assuming that GORGEOUS cover means good writing is also a bit flawed: one of my favorite series had what I thought to be mediocre cover art throughout, but the story was so good that I plowed through those twelve books VERY fast. Then I did it again to see if I could catch foreshadowing and hints. Then AGAIN to see if I missed any jokes.

    • I understand exactly what you mean about the cover being bad. Bad covers grate on me, especially as I enjoy displaying things on my bookshelf and I like them to be peeeerrrdy 😛 But obviously it is not really the best way of judging any kind of book for longer than a moment 🙂 what is your favorite series, just out of curiosity?

      • Oh, this is easy. David Eddings’s Belgariad and Malloreon. Twelve books all told. Started by a map sketch and the realization that Tolkien was STILL A THING, he went and decided to write a fantasy epic that also basically took ALL OF THE TROPES and ran with them–a veritable Deconstructor Fleet as each is played straight, or inverted (sometimes in the same paragraph for great comic effect), with a generous dose of scenery porn and…well, the humor’s weird sometimes, and it builds on itself. And sometimes it’s like this:

        Durnik: Excuse me. *taps enemy soldier on shoulder*
        Enemy Soldier: *dazed* Huh?
        Durnik: *whacks the guy with the flat side of his battle axe and straight off his horse.*
        [I THINK this was] Belgarath: EXCUSE ME? *howling with laughter*
        Durnik: *perfectly straight face* What? There’s no need to be uncivil.

        He just brained a guy on the head with a gigantic axe and he’s worried about being uncivil? I laughed for five solid minutes, because I kept hearing the “KLONK!” in my head and it would just pop back up.

      • Oh that sounds like a lot of fun 🙂 I may put that on my ever growing ‘to read’ list 🙂

  3. I agree with you – the title of a book and its cover both do have quite a big impact on the likelihood of whether or not I pick it up in the first place. Once it’s picked up, then I look inside to make more of a judgement on the writing itself.

  4. I agree, covers are how I judge most books and it usually works out for me.

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