As the saying goes.

Jane’s post earlier this week about how book covers come into existence, got me thinking. We know we’re not supposed to, but I know that I, at least, will almost always judge a book, and my willingness to read it, by its cover. Its cover, spine, type face, page layout, even its binding. The simpler, the better. I’m drawn to plain, unassuming books; preferably paperbacks with French flaps and those roughly cut, thick, and slightly uneven pages. That’s just me being really particular, though. If I had it my way, almost all covers would be extremely sparse, perhaps designed, but without actual pictures or photographs if these can be avoided. The words on the front don’t have to be a specific size or font, but the text inside does—preferably with serifs and not too spaced out. I sound picky, I know, but we’re talking ideals here! Book cover utopia!

Obviously, there are exceptions, and there are covers that feature people or animals or what have you, that I fall in love with, too (I’m thinking the applicable covers of Lolita, The Virgin Suicides and this series of Evelyn Waugh’s oeuvre, for example), so maybe it’s not that easy to classify. All I know is that when I’m drawn to a book initially, it’s on the spine or cover alone—aided in part by the title, I suppose—and I am always surprised when I find myself really enjoying a book whose cover I dislike and am more disappointed when a book with a great cover turns out to be less than satisfying.

In any case, the merit obviously lies in the writing itself, no matter the form in which it is presented, but I thought I’d indulge a little in the most famous literary taboo. What are your preferences? Are there any book covers that stand out in your mind as the pinnacle of perfection?

5 Responses to As the saying goes.

  1. I agree with you about the simple covers. I personally don’t like covers with people on them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a sad teen staring mournfully into a mirror or a Fabio-style hunk ripping the bodice off a raven-haired, red-lipped heroine..it just turns me off. I’m sure I’ve pooh-poohed a lot of good books because of the cover.

    I like a cover that’s quirky.That makes me think.. “Wonder what the hell THAT means?”

  2. Ciara says:

    Ha, all those covers are of legs!

    One book cover that I can think of offhand that caught my attention was this one: http://img.amazon.ca/images/I/41WKQ4WHTCL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

    I can’t even say what I specifically like about it. I do tend to be drawn to covers with blurry people though, like this one:


  3. Donn says:

    Three cheers for plain covers! I’m all for aesthetically designed covers and individuality within the confines of typography, but no images please. It makes the world that’s about to be presented in the story far too specific and confined.

    (…Did you notice your favourite covers are all people’s legs? I’ll keep that in mind next time I wanna recommend you something I like…just stick in some legs and you’ll be sold ;).

  4. Tanja says:

    For me, it depends on the genre. I have certain book cover expectations when I buy a sci-fi or fantasy or paranormal novel versus YA fiction or historical fiction, versus mystery or horror or nonfiction. Overall, I prefer my book covers with some kind of narrative imagery or at least hints of one rather than a blob of color, logos or pure graphic design — that’s boring IMO and especially does not make me excited or curious about a new author in any genre.

    In fact, those kind of “plain” covers I would generally only pick up after I’ve heard reviews from reliable sources (friends and various online blogs I keep up with) or because this is an author whose previous writings I’ve read and enjoyed regardless of how unattractive the cover is to me. :) As an example of that, I would consider three of John Scalzi’s books. “Old Man’s War” and “Ghost Brigade” have illustrated covers that give some idea of the stories inside (the first has characters on the cover, the other has a spaceship scene), and then contrast those two to “Android’s Dream” which I only picked up because I knew the author by that point. Even so, I was still undecided about buying it and looked at the flap blurb (after telling myself to ignore the cover) to see if the story might actually be of interest after all. It was, and I did.

  5. You seem to like legs on your covers. My guess is you’d like the cover of THE TIME-TRAVELLER’S WIFE.

    I like covers with a provocative image that makes me ponder. I tend to dislike most covers that show a person’s full face or figure, although I love when they focus on a specific body part (unless it’s the tattooed female back, which seems to be everywhere right now). Oddly enough, though, I like covers that show half a face. There are exceptions, of course; my copy of I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE shows the twins as babies, but the way they are positioned helps you consider their relationship, and as they’re babies, I don’t feel like the cover is trying to force me to see the characters that way.

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