We’ve all heard it said: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” While I agree with the metaphoric meaning of the phrase, I don’t think the maxim really applies to books anymore.
Whether or not we like it, we’re a pretty visual society. We buy products based on pictures and flashy adversing. We watch movies full of computer graphics. It’s hard for us to believe in what we can’t see. And I think the cover of the book can matter — it doesn’t determine what’s on the inside, but a lot of times it gives you a clue of what’s there. And with so many overwhelming choices, that clue can be important.
These great books have great covers to match … why can’t they all be like this?
Today, I’ve been working on a book order that’s not about choice — I’m putting in an order for the Summer Reading list that high school teachers give to students. Lots of these are great books, and they might just hook a few new people on reading (the teacher who assigned The Maze Runner, for example, is a genius). But it’s depressing to look at the dull covers of some of these books and know that students will probably dread reading them before they even start.
For example, why isn’t there a great cover for Kate Chopin’s Awakening, a book that’s almost always on the reading list for hundreds high schools and colleges. Why does the cover of Self-Reliance have a boring, black-and-white portrait of Emerson on its jacket, instead of some good, simple design? Why does every copy of The Count of Monte Cristo have a boring oil portrait on the cover?
If we’re going to get kids (and adults, for that matter) interested in reading, we’re going to have to give them more than that. I’m happy that more and more publishers are getting that message and coming out with great new versions of classic books. Because a lot of these are titles we missed in school … or only pretended to read because they looked too boring.