On Book Covers

This is a guest post from my blog buddy and fellow bookworm Lovelyloey!

I’m currently reading Other Colours by Orhan Pamuk, the award-winning author responsible for My Name is Red. Other Colours is a collection of short musings by the author covering a wide range of topics ranging to life in Istanbul to writing novels. One section is about reading, which I particularly enjoyed.

One of the most intriguing pieces in this section is what he wrote about book covers. I quote:

“We cannot recall the books we most love without also recalling their covers.” (Pg115)

“Book titles are like people’s names: They help us distinguish a book from the million others it resembles. But book covers are like people’s faces: they remind us of a happiness we once knew or they promise a blissful world we have yet to explore. That is why we gaze at book covers as passionately as we do at faces.” (Pg 116)

Don’t you agree with him?

Admittedly, I am shallow when it comes to picking up (no pun intended) books in the libraries or the book store. Interesting covers catch my attention, and I’d go as far as to say I have rejected books based on their covers. Like how I switch among genres in different points in time, my preference of book covers shift as well. When I was into happily-ever-after chick lit, I reached out most for pink fuchsia covers; when I was into crime fiction, I reached out for books with dark covers (and preferably with blood splatters, or covered with bony remains like those of Patricia Cornwell). Reflecting on this, I think book cover designs are fundamentally … ideological, in the sense that they are often bound by the genre of the novel.  Like how must romance novels have pink covers (or covers with a damsel in distress encircled by the thick arms of the male protagonist). You ain’t gonna find a romance novel with pictures of bones or swords on the cover. There exists certain rules and traditions when it comes to cover design I guess.

All in all, I agree with Pamuk that book covers create lasting impression in us, especially for our favourite book. I can always recall exactly how the cover of my first To Kill A Mockingbird looks, as well as the many different variants my family owned. But would I go to the extent to say that if we can’t recall the cover, we don’t love the book? Nah, I wouldn’t say that. Not only is that illogical reasoning (ignore me if you’re not big on logical reasoning), some covers just aren’t impressionable. Like, how many of you actually remember all  7 covers of the Harry Potter series, unless you’re a huge fan?

So the next time you pick up a book in the bookstore or the library, think : did I unconsciously made a shallow choice on why this book?

Great topic! I have to admit that I have bought books solely based on their attractive covers and I suppose subconsciously I do realise covers are a form of advertising. They’re just like a product’s package. I remember times where I felt very tempted to buy a classic I wouldn’t even read because of its contemporary, attractive cover! Have you?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. museditions
    Dec 22, 2008 @ 15:18:41

    I have done that, too! My parents used to have a set of books called something like “The Great Books of the World”, or something, and maybe they were, but this set was bound all exactly alike! No pictures, or interesting type faces—Boring! Covers and titles are what draw me in; of course the story has to be good once I get there. Good topic, lovelyloey!

    nylusmilk: i thought you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover! 😉


  2. Trackback: The Literary Pursuit Takes A Different Direction « The Literary Pursuit

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