Judging a book by the cover




You’ve probably heard it said countless times: you can’t judge a book by the cover.


Well, I am going to suggest to you to do precisely that: to select the next fiction book to read by its cover.


It’s easy to settle upon reading matter if you know the name of the author, the name of the book, or at least the kind of book you’d like to delve into.


But what about all those times when you just want to read something nice and interesting, but don’t have any specific preferences?


That’s when you want to make up your mind on the basis of external, superficial indicators such as:


  • The front cover. Take one look, and you’ll be able to tell the genre of the content and eliminate what you do not want to read. Flowing font and young ladies with enormous eyes signify romantic content. If that’s your fare, go for it; if not, skip. Block letters, often 3D, mean there’s some intricate conspiracy / prologued chase / weighty riddle (possibly all three) within. Again, if that’s to your taste… Classics are often recognised by a subdued, neat design. A note: personally, I’d read any book that has really good covers; after all, it means that at least one person involved in the making of it has put real talent and effort into the task.
  • The back cover. This is a real fountain of information. Not so much the synopsis, for it usually gives the bare skeleton of the plot, leaving out all that matters in a work of fiction: style, wit, inventiveness, rhythm. Reviews, however, can be very useful. If the book has been reviewed by a magazine or a newspaper you esteem or a writer you admire, go for it.
  • Provenience of the author. Practically any fiction that was worth translating into English, the language with enormous book production, is probably worth reading.
  • The first few sentences. A good writer (and you want to read books by good writers, don’t you?) sets the tone and atmosphere with the first few sentences. Usually, if that’s not worth reading, neither is the rest of the book. Alas, it is not unusual to get a book with a good opening and poor follow-up… But then, at least you can say with a clear conscience that you had given it the benefit of a doubt.

Want a proof that a book can indeed be judged by its cover? Here are five novels I originally chose just by looking at them, and they did not disappoint:


  • Kimhi, Alona: Weeping Susannah
  • Smith, Zadie: White Teeth
  • Schlink, Bernhard: The Reader
  • Høeg, Peter: Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow
  • Tan, Amy: The Bonesetter’s Daughter

If you cannot find all five among the many fiction books available on bidorbuy, get a different one from the same author, ask sellers to post a specific title, or visit your local library.


PS: I admit, there were also novels I read because I was attracted by the covers, only to be disappointed… But that’s a risk a committed reader has to take.