Yeah, yeah. I’m not supposed to, but I do. I judge—and buy—books by their covers. If I had inherited my mother’s shopping savvy, I’d go for the bargain bin of paperbacks and read all the blurbs on the backs (she doesn’t do this with books but does the equivalent with clothes). Instead, I head straight for the shelf of shiny new hardcovers, find the prettiest one, and work out how many nights I’ll have to eat noodles if I buy one.
Okay, that’s not how I do it all the time. I’m often working through my “must-buy” books, but if I’m straying from that list I look at the cover first and read the blurb after. However, if Maureen Johnson’s fantastic Coverflip experiment proved one thing (it proved more than one thing, but whatever), it’s that I’m certainly not the only one who will pass over or pick up a book based on its appearance.
I’m not going to delve into the mire of gendered covers, genre covers, or even bed covers today (maybe later). Instead, here are five books I picked up purely because they appealed to my haphazard, dramatic sense of aesthetics.
Because I love the colors and I have a thing for ravens, I was drawn to this book like an ant colony to that one speck of spilled juice the mop missed. I didn’t have any interest in Arthurian legends or the research and linguistics surrounding them so I knew I should just put it down and back away slowly. I bought it anyway, thoroughly enjoyed it, and was able to share it with my dad as well. It also sparked an obsession with the history of Britain and Wales, which in turn was one of the driving forces behind a main character in my current project.
I may have mixed feelings about the story but I think the cover is absolutely stunning. If I ever get anything published, I can only hope the cover art will be half as elegant. Unfortunately, all the roses and gold leaf in the world can’t make up for a naïve, emotional protagonist and just enough womanly coming-of-age stuff to make the sixth-grade boy in me cover his ears and run away screaming, “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” I know, that’s really immature. I don’t care.
This one doesn’t really belong here because I wanted to read it before I ever saw the cover. However, this cover, with all its 3D paper-cutout contrast sparkly swirly-ness, almost made me forget about the rest of my Christmas gifts. The story is even more beautiful than the cover art and everyone in the whole world should read it. Everyone I know is sick and tired of me talking about and recommending this book, so I’ve started trying to find new people to talk to just to tell them about The Night Circus.
The ultra-logical reasoning behind this pick? It’s blue and shiny. It may look pretty basic and unexciting, but let me tell you, it jumps out on a shelf full of campy, long-bearded wizards and quasi-gothic vampire girls. The story is a rather disjointed mishmash of gore, Celtic mythology, gore, sex, and gore, but I didn’t dislike it. I might even read the sequels, assuming they actually happen.
I love The Scarlet Letter, so I was really interested to read something labeled “a powerful reimagining” of the same book, especially when it had such an attention-grabbing cover. While it wasn’t a bad read, the shadow of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original proved far too long for When She Woke. Many of the same themes—religion, society, private versus public self, etc.—were present, but were used in a heavy-handed, juvenile way. Jordan also positioned Hawthorne’s recognizable images—like the rosebush—in blatantly obvious but contextually meaningless places. This would’ve worked as a stand-alone look at American society, but the invitation to compare it to such a significant classic made it hollow and pretentious.
As you can see, I’ve had mixed success picking books by their covers. Do I have any other cover-buyers here? I’d love to see some covers that grabbed your eye!