Friday, January 8, 2010

Judging a Book by It's Cover

In this world we live in, the actual contents of a book are among the very last things we use to determine its worth. A book comes to us through a journey and because we have limited time and limited energy we can only invest in getting to know a few books. Even those who read hundreds of books a year, are still rejecting hundreds of others in favor of those.

We make all sorts of early judgements about whether or not a book will be worth our time. What does it look like, we think as we peer at the cover. Do I like the sound of its name? What line does it come from, we wonder as we study the name on the spine. Who else likes this book? we question and if one of the cool kids likes it, we move just a little closer to inviting the book into our life. Which clubs is this book in, we puzzle, often making a snap decision based on appearance. Oh, this book is a cheerleader, or this book is a nerd.

I get it, that's there's no way around this problem. I know we can't see the heart of a book first. I realize it takes hours to know a book.

But I want to decide which books to read based on the right reasons. I know I'll probably fail and still make snap decision, get carried away by hype or turned away by a sharp word. But I hope....I hope I do better.




Amy

13 comments:

Beth Kephart said...

Oh, Amy. This is so true. We are seduced, and it is easy to be seduced, by the one image, the one line. I am big book buyer, as you know, and no matter what, I had to have The Piano Teacher in my house, based on that cover alone. I didn't stand in the bookstore reading pages, no, not me. I just went in, saw that cover, and the book was mine.

But as an author I should always keep in mind how little say the authors have. I should be doing a far more objective job of choosing my reading. It's a hard thing to do.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Interesting comment from Beth. I guess I knew that, from other authors. When they see their cover for the first time, it is always a question of whether they've won the lottery or not. Which is sad, since so many of us make snap decisions based on that cover. That power should not be so much removed from the author's hands. Still we can't help it can we? We are visual people. I'm the same way with wine, I hate to say.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Unfortunately that is true. We tend to be visual people. And we can miss some really great stuff by judging the cover first.

Staci said...

Very thought provoking post Amy...I'm going to look at my reads this year a little harder now before I commit to them.

Kay said...

You're right in your thoughts, Amy. I will admit though that I love a beautiful cover. Sadly, some really beautiful covers are trite and shallow inside. A lesson in life, huh? Thanks for a thought provoking post.

Jenn said...

I definitely do this, especially when I go to the library with no particular book in mind. I choose by colour depending on what genre I like. Usually red/black = mystery/crime, pink = chicklit, blue = heartfelt/sappy, etc. Then I judge on the cover/title. Punny names get extra points, like "Bank On It" which could be about a bank heist.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I so agree with this post! Back in my early reviwing days, ARCs/Galleys had a plain cover with just the title and author. No way to judge the book based on the cover. I have to admit that now, when I receive an unsolicited review copy, the cover does play a key role in determining whether or not I will review the book. It's pretty sad, but I don't know of a way to prevent it.

bermudaonion said...

Great post! I will admit to judging a book by it's cover at times. There are so many books out there, though, we have to weed through them somehow.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Amy this happens to me all the time. I will read a great review of a book on a blog that by looking at the cover, sadly, I would have not considered for myself by that first initial appearance. (Gah! How shallow am I?)

I wrote a post on this subject last year and found that most readers are like me and cover is truly the eye candy that causes us to pick up the book and go a little deeper.

Aths said...

*Raising my hand* Guilty as well!

I tend to look at the cover before choosing a book to read. Not to choose a book with the better cover, but to ditch a book with a cover that doesn't appeal. I don't like it when I do that. Like, last year I so hesitated to read Inkheart because I didn't like the cover, and when I finally did, it was one of the best books I ever read.

Beth F said...

I am a little bit of everything. I am totally seduced by a cover but I am a big review reader -- not just blogs but print and online too.

When reading reviews of any type written by a stranger I am more interested in the premise or setting than I am by the opinion. Once I get to know a reviewer, his or her opinion can influence me.

I am not much taken in my popular opinion -- award winners, best-sellers -- although I do fall prey sometimes.

Ti said...

I am a huge book cover snob. I am so glad that some of the publishers are re-printing a lot of the classics with newly designed covers. I see people all over reading these classics now. It thrills me to see people reading that normally would not, just because of a cover.

Kim said...

Last summer, Latitude 33, an independent bookstore in Laguna Niguel, had a separate display just of books with wonderful covers. It was such a treat to look through this visually extravagant diverse collection of genres. I picked up buying a book that I was attracted to soley by the cover, found the description surprising interesting and bought it.

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