Musing Mondays – Judging A Book By Its Cover

13Jul09


Today’s Musing Monday’s question is:

We all know the old adage about not judging a book by it’s cover, but just how much sway does a book cover have when it comes to your choice of book – whether buying or borrowing? Are there any books you’ve bought based on the cover alone?

Yup, I’m guilty of the above. If a cover *looks* interesting, I will pick up the book. Of course, if the blurb at the back of the book is uninteresting, I’ll drop it like a hot potato. However, most publishers have this annoying knack to make any gist sound interesting. That’s daylight robbery, in my opinion.

In the recent past (last two months), I’ve picked up two books based solely on their covers, and ironically enough, for very different reasons.

A Murder Of Quality by John le Carre was one such book, where the cover was simple, and classic, but the title of the book was written in a nice sprawly font.

And then there’s Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, where the title and the cover intrigued me. It’s a busy cover, which looks like something out of a fantasy book. Normally, I wouldn’t be attracted to covers like this, but… there was just something about it that caught my eye.

How about you? Do you tend to impulse buy, based on the cover of books, or are you a more pragmatic well-researched buyer?

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18 Responses to “Musing Mondays – Judging A Book By Its Cover”

  1. I’d pick up both those books based on their covers! They look interesting.

  2. Those are lovely covers, both. Aren’t beautiful covers essential? Lol.

  3. I think this proves how much I love that cover for The Magic Toyshop and that I will buy books for the cover alone on occasion: I have three copies of the book, including that one. All of them Virago (have a look at the 30th birthday Virago edition, the hardback with the puppet fabric – I couldn’t resist that one either!)

  4. The cover for the first one would probably get my attention and the title was really great–titles factor into my decisions too (to flip the book over and read the back blurb).

  5. 6 Elena

    speaking of bookcovers, australian publishers have a rather controversial bookcover for a book being released in august by nick cave –
    The Death of Bunny Munro. lots of clicking tongues but it’s gonna drum up some interest. woould you judge this book by its cover?

  6. I hate those covers for the new Nick Cave book. Ugly, ugly font ugh. I’m not too much of a fan of that cover of The Magic Toyshop, maybe that’s my own prejudices coming through.

  7. 8 Mish

    On the rare occasion a cover catches my eye, I’ll pick it up. If the summary interests me, I may buy it. Usually I already know what I want when walking into bookstores and my “shopping list” is long enough already. The last cover to catch my eye was the Perks of Being a Wallflower back in March. I still have yet to read it though.

  8. @Rebecca : … and so I did. I really enjoyed one of them. Let’s see how the other one pans out.

    @claire : Yes! I’m procrastinating reading ‘When I Lived In Modern Times’ because I don’t like its cover. Aren’t I awful?

    @gautami tripathy : Thanks =)

    @Claire : Wow! Seriously? I hadn’t even heard of Angela Carter, ’til I purchased this book, came home, and googled her. The hardback sounds amazing. After your comment, I’m realy looking forward to reading the book.

    @Literature Crazy : Yeah, I concur. Titles are important, maybe more so than the cover itself.

    @Elena : Yes, and not in a good way. That’s actually a very disturbing cover, specially considering the UK and US versions look relatively normal. Might be one of those ‘publicity’ stunts, to get the book talked about.

    @uenohoma : I agree with you about the Nick Cave book. As for Magic Toyshop… well, it’s not normally the kind of cover I go for, but there was just something about it that I can’t really explain.

    @Mish : When I know what I want, I tend to use Amazon. I adore going into a bookstore, and just browsing, taking in all the books, and seeing if I stumble upon something wonderful and amazing. It’s not practical, but…. I don’t know! I still do it.

  9. I can see why you were attracted to these! I am very drawn to good book design, but would not describe myself as an impulse buyer. My post today goes through some covers/books I am lusting after right now. But have not bought yet. My only downfall is a mortar and bricks book store where I can feel as well as see the books. Good design so often goes hand in hand with beautiful papers and details. Sigh.

  10. I would never buy a book based just on the cover but certain covers, especially simple ones, will draw my attention enough to get me to read the back or a bit of the first chapter.

  11. @Frances : Tell me about it. I love hardbacks as well – they just feel so “rich”.

    @caite : I concur. I don’t think one can buy a book solely based on the cover, if the blurb looks uninteresting/boring/dull. Well, I can’t at least.

  12. 13 Mish

    I tend to get into trouble when “just browsing”, not that that stops me. Most times I’ll browse at the used bookstore, in which case books on and off my list are bound to follow me home. If my chances of finding something on my list are slim to none, I’ll use Amazon. Occasionally, I browse Big Bookstores with hands in my pockets. If there’s something “I need” immediately, I’ll purchase. Consciously trying to limit buying brand new books this year has helped cut back on the latter.

    • I can’t do it. God knows, I’ve tried, but I just can’t. Every time I have a bad day at work (had more than my share recently), there are only two things that can cheer me up: a super-rich chocolate milkshake or a book haul. There’s no milkshake place around me, so…

      I’ve started dividing my books into two piles though, once I finish reading them: to keep and to swap. I never used to have the latter pile earlier, but, it just doesn’t make sense to keep books you’re never ever ever going to re-read, and which don’t really merit a place on your shelf.

  13. I don’t think I’d buy a book solely based on the cover, but it definitely inspires me to pick the book up and look at it. It also makes me happy just to look at the pretty ones. =) Book blogging has taken away most of my impulse buying tendencies; now that I know where to find so many reviews, I’m much more interested in trying to figure out whether I’ll like a book or not before I buy it.

    • I think ‘impulse-buying’ is in my genes! Yup, I read loads of book reviews/recommendations on the blog-o-sphere, but, I still can’t help being drawn to books, and buying it based on a combination of their title/cover/blurb.

  14. I think it is a bit of a cheap shot at publicity re: nick cave’s book. The UK one is still creepy without being, well, disturbing. Would be weird reading a book like that in public O.o


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