Do Judge a Book by its Cover

Everyone does anyway, whether we say we do or not. Just like we judge people by appearance. We can’t not (to whatever extent).

So what is your favorte book cover? I got to thinking about this based on this post I linked to from Andrew Mackay. I wasn’t that crazy about many of those designs, but a few were special. Like this one:


I don’t know what makes a book cover great, but for me it seems like a combination of beauty and cleverness does the trick. And it doesn’t have to be beautiful, really. Perhaps if it is striking that is enough.

The cover of a book seldom has much to do with me reading it –though I know that is usually the case. I read from authors I love, and follow recommendations of trusted friends and authors I admire. When I think of it, many (most?) of my favorite books have uninteresting covers.

Hmmph. So…

1) What makes a great cover?

2) What’s your favorite book cover of all time?

3) Does it matter to you?


  1. Sam, for me, a great cover generally is simple and makes a point with one strong graphic element. The one you posted was one of my favorites too… not a lot going on at first glance, but then you see the hands. There were several others in there that were strong, but I think the thing that got me about most of them was their understatedness.

    If you look at a lot of amateur cover design, you’ll find a glut of over-designed covers. Great covers are never over designed.

    Anyway, you beat me to it, I’ve got a post just like this queued up later this week. Way to beat me to the good ideas!

  2. A good cover ought to be striking and skillfully executed. (I’d expand the “beauty” classification to include “beauty of artistry” instead of just “prettiness.” Under that definition, the above example certainly qualifies.)

  3. The book cover which grabs at least a closer look from me is one with the author’s name bold enough for my tired eyes to read. Then I can save my attention to those written by people I am interested in and/or those that have been suggested by trusted friends. Artistry is important, but it won’t sell me a book. Sometimes subtitles get my attention too!

  4. I must say that I’m a sucker for old (or at least hardback) books, and therefore old book covers. My favorite is a huge volume of Moby Dick with a silver whale embossed on the black background of the cover. I actually kind of hate book covers that have “pictures” of any of the characters, because then my mind is forever tainted with that image of the character instead of my own (except for Moby Dick of course. I mean, he’s a whale, for crying out loud!) I like book covers with texture. Even new books with raised lettering etc. get my attention more than the average book. I think that’s why I like the old ones best though. They almost always have that texture that invites reading.

  5. Go beyond the cover in this case and read the book. Kevin Brockmeier is phenominal. Try and find his short story, “Space,” I think it’s in Best American Short Stories 2003. He has a few stories in the O. Henry Prize collections, too, and edited a recent edition.

    I’m a youth minister and I love your vid! 🙂

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