Saturday, July 17, 2010

Judging A Book

“Don’t know if I want to do this.”

“What? Why?”

“You have to ride a bicycle.” She taps an index finger against the computer monitor. “Says so right here.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Haven’t ridden a bike in a long time.”

“You know, they have a saying about riding bicycles...”


My wife is certainly smarter than I am, so I get a special thrill when I get to tease her about moments like the above. Another that I often give her grief about is her fascination with book covers. She has a very strong visceral reaction to book art. I don’t think she’d necessarily ignore the contents of a book based on the jacket, but there are instances where it might get dicey.

To be fair, if someone put Fabio on the cover of A Sport And A Pastime, I’d have likely missed out on one of my favorite reads of the year.

We talked about this the other night and spent some time flipping through a book on jacket design called Front Cover. Our aesthetic sensibilities generally have a good amount of overlap and we found ourselves very much agreeing on the the designs of Alvin Lustig. We also enjoyed Angus Hyland’s designs for Pocket Canons.

What about you? Any book jackets you love/hate? Does it matter? Will it change in the age of the e-book?

Alvin Lustig

Angus Hyland


  1. Those are some great artworks. I normally go by other's review on a book's content and get it from Amazon, so I haven't paid much attention to them. It may be a lost art soon with the digital books gaining popularity.

  2. Hi, Sarah. The web definitely makes it easier to find books you're likely to enjoy. As for e-books, I'm wondering how multimedia might begin to play a role. Book soundtracks? Links to video? Embedded images? It'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

  3. I tend to prefer the old Penguin covers, where you had different colours for different subjects. Made it obvious what you were buying. I have umpteen old orange ones and several green and blue ones. Love their simplicity.

  4. Hi, Madame. They did a great job with creating brand, which is something I certainly recognize and value. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

  5. Those are beautiful. I hope books, in print, and their art are around for a zillion years.

  6. Hi, lesinfin. I think they'll stick around. I wonder if there might be more of a tendency to view them as objects/art in the future.

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.

  7. Covers are extremely important with Kindle books from what I read. We should watch the iPad space as the innovation in the medium will likely come from there. Children's books will lead the way as they allow for greater natural interactivity. I'm not sure if Ulysses or some such book can really benefit from such things, but someone is likely to try.

  8. Hi, Brad. That's interesting. I had no idea about covers and the Kindle. I agree about the innovation with the iPad. The interactive illustrations for Alice In Wonderland were something new and surely just the beginning of the possibilities.

    As for Ulysses, probably. Penguin started releasing some interesting covers for classic books sometime in the last year or so. They're designed by a fashion illustrator named Ruben Toledo. Not necessarily my aesthetic, but it looks like they're trying to entice a new reader with the covers.

    Here's a blog post about the Penguin redesigns:

  9. Anne Rice - The Witching Hour; amazing cover :)
    Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice; failed cover :(

    your blog's a good read hunter :)

  10. Hi, JW. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I love books, but I feel strongly about their covers too for some reason. I spend a lot of time, probably more than most people, staring at a cover (before and after I've read a book). I don't know if it's habit or what. Just something I do.

    I like the covers that Wendell Minor did for author Pat Conroy. But other than that, I think my favorites are usually bright and quirky or a plain sort of photograph - like the cover on David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

  12. Hi... just wanted to say I really like your blog - keep up the great work!!

    common cents

  13. As much as I try not to judge, I'm guilty. I'm a fan of clean looking covers that allow the title to jump out. Especially in a font that somehow hints at the books content, like The Great Gatsby:

  14. I bought a book because of its cover. The book was "Bloodroot" by Amy Greene. The cover was a superb photo of a young girl stretched out in the grass. The girl happened to be the daughter of one of my oldest and dearest friends. I figured that any author who would pick such an excellent subject for her book cover must be interesting to read. I was right.

  15. I judge books solely by their smell. You can tell everything you need to know about a book by it's odour. Never trust a book that doesn't smell right.

  16. Hi, OWO. It's interesting how many people are influenced by covers. I'm not familiar with the Pat Conroy covers, but I know the Sedaris one you're talking about.

    Hi, Steve. Thanks!

    Hi, Hannah. I like that cover. I believe it's the version I read in high school.

    Hi, Judie. I could see how that cover would be especially appealing!

    Hi, Kid. Funny, I judge people in much the same way.

  17. hi again hunter :) seems to me like your a veteran blogger perhaps you could check out my microscopic slice of the internet and give me your thoughts? If you want to of course :)

    thank you :)

  18. Hi, JW. I'll stop by and give it a look. Best of luck with the new blog!

  19. I can't think of particular book covers I loved but I do know, it's far too painful to buy a book that features a cover from its movie version. That's like ghettoing up your novel. :)

  20. You know, I hadn't thought about this before.

    If I had my druthers, the book wouldn't have nothing on the cover but the spine would be enticing.

    That said, I can remember, off-hand, the covers of Animal Farm (something frightening about the lines), Atlas Shrugged (that book even LOOKED heavy), The Hobbit (so friendly).

    You know what I think is strange, though, is how many covers a book can have. Same book. Different initial impression.


  21. Nice book covers, they look very artistic;)