Forget what your mama told you. Whoever said "don't judge a book by its cover" couldn't have actually been talking about books...
What with book covers changing to fit design trends and the classics constantly getting makeovers, it would seem that book covers are rather important. Actually, I'd argue that reading books is a lot like dating, so you should note bookish sex appeal...
- Reading, like dating, is quite a time commitment. And if you're going to be spending a lot of time looking at something (or someone), you want it to look good. When you first see a potential date, the first thing you notice is his or her attractiveness. (Yes you did. Don't lie. None of that "I only see their heart" mess.) Likewise, if you found yourself drawn to a particular book on a shelf that's filled with books, I venture to say it had something to do with the sexiness of that spine.
- If bookish looks weren't important, you'd have been happy with that beat up copy of Alice in Wonderland instead of forking out for the collector's addition. In a relationship how you want all your friends to think your boo is cute (hence all those selfies, of course), and in your reading relationships, you want people to think your books are pretty, too.
- I don't know about you, but I often fall asleep reading. And you better believe if I'm going to let a book (or a man) share my bed, I'm not going to be too thrilled if I wake up regretting it.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
Furthermore, much in the same way of couples who met on OkCupid, I met one of my favorite books based on appearance. Meet A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois.
I was taking a casual stroll through my favorite indie bookstore (Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi), not looking for anything in particular. After checking the staff picks, new releases, and the featured books on the prominent freestanding table real estate, I still hadn't found a book I wanted to take home. Then, suddenly, my eyes fell upon A Partial History of Lost Causes and my face took on what I can only imagine to be Ryan Gosling's expression from his "Hey girl" memes.
The cover captivated me--something about those soothing colors, the mysterious title in that nice blocky font, and the air of sophisticated travel-type intelligentsia in the picture. I was curious. I should also mention that I'd never heard of the author, Jennifer duBois, which made sense because this was her debut novel.
Now, I consume a lot of bookish media. I mean, a lot. I read up on the newest releases, the authors everyone is talking about, author drama (believe me, literary folk could use their own version of celebrity tabloids)... Hell, I'll even entertain the critics by reading the occasional snobby review and letting them think they're still relevant. (They're not. But that's a whole 'nother post.) Yet, despite all my book obsessiveness, I hadn't heard a word about A Partial History of Lost Causes.
I came for the book cover, but I stayed for the content. I mean, I'm not shallow in my relationships--be they books or dating. I figure if someone has put a lot of design effort into a book cover, it must be because they believe in the power of the story. While it's more true for books than dates, outward appearance tends to be a reflection of what's inside.
As my favorite fashion blogger, Southern Femme, says, "Fashion is visual currency." And, essentially, a book jacket--no pun intended--is the fashion of the literary world. Therefore, that jacket needs to be clean, pressed, tailored, and have shiny gold buttons if it's going to get my attention.
So, I say go forth unburdened of guilt and judge books by their covers. You might just meet a book you can fall in love with.
(And for your nerdy pleasure, there's a whole Tumblr of Ryan Gosling "Hey, Girl" librarian style memes. You're welcome.)