Friday, August 14, 2009

A Book By A Different Cover? - Guest Post by Sheri from A Novel Menagerie)

I’m so honored that Wendy enabled me the opportunity to guest blog in her absence. Being that she is one of my most favorite blogs, I look forward to everything that she posts. As I tossed and turned, considering my options about my guest post, I kept thinking about writing about something that would honor her blog and do it justice. You know… something that was important and held merit with book bloggers. I came up… BLANK! But, what I did know is that I wanted to ask questions of her readers that I wouldn’t necessarily get in my blog. So….. that means no blogs about my disappointment on Paula Abdul leaving American Idol, no ranting and raving about the dancing on So You Think You Can Dance, and also no posts about the new reality TV Show “More To Love.” (And, believe me, you, I’ve got plenty to say about that show!)

Trying to focus myself back to a book-oriented post, I kept coming back to something that I’ve been challenging myself with… do I tend to choose the next “review book” based on its cover?

Now, within the confines of my mind, I tend to think that I’m so impartial, fair, and non-judgmental. My obvious answer is, “Of course, I do not judge a book by its cover.” But, after reading several books in this past week, I think I’m only fooling myself. I absolutely place a certain amount of weight on my next reading choice based on its cover. Let’s examine why…

Now, if I have been reading about a book that is just receiving rave reviews, I’m the first one to order it from or the library. The countless number of books on my wish list reflects my belief in the opinion of my fellow book review bloggers. But, what about the bookstore? And, for that matter, what about those great ARC’s/Galleys that appear on my doorstep? As they form their piles by date of release, am I really that faithful to read them all in chronological order? Honestly, I’m not. I cheat.

That’s it. It’s been said. I CHEAT. Every now and then, I’ll pull a book out of the stack just because I love the look of its cover. There’s just a personal pull to that particular book that says, “READ ME!” And, I do.

So, has my cheating paid off? Do the covers reflect the insides?

Yes. And, No. There have been some books that have surprised me… I didn’t care for the cover, but loved the book. And, far and away the same can be said about the opposite.

I shift radically to the liberal interpretation of the coined phrase, “judging a book by its cover.” Do people make immediate impressions of me based on “my cover?” Well, I live in Southern California, so that obvious answer is, “Yes.” Do I hate it? YES! As I ponder the many reality television shows that I watch and review, I never really address the topic of my forming opinions of these seemingly perfect people based on their exterior appearance (i.e. their “cover.”) The very thing that I hate, I do. Initially, we’re all based on our cover.

So, in books and in life… how do you find your perfect match? Do I randomly pick a mom at a soccer match and strike up a conversation to see if a friendship could be fostered? No. Not really. I pick people who seem “like me.” Do I read books with covers that absolutely turn me in the other direction? No. Absolutely not. In fact, any time I see the words or indication of vampires, zombies, or anything remotely scary, I move onto the next blog article to read. I hate vampires and blood and scary stuff. I don’t want to read that! And, the cover with the blood drops… eeewww! NO!

But, what if it is really good? What if I might surprise myself? What if there is a fantastic read in that book Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? I totally loved Pride & Prejudice. Would I like the book with that and the zombies? What is the worst thing that can happen? I start dreaming of Mr. Darcy jumping out of his grave? There are definitely worse nightmares than that.

So, how do you challenge yourself to look beyond the cover… in life and in books? How do you form an open mind that overturns the decisions of the initial reaction?

Do tell!

Many thanks to Sheri for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Sheri at A Novel Menagerie. If you don't already follow her blog regularly, you should!


  1. Sheri, great to see you over here! I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we judge based on first glance. Sometimes that is all you get is a glance. I will purposefully avoid a person who doesn't smile, and later find out they would take a bullet for you. Or what about the cute, perky little mom that you later learn would sell her mother to the highest bidder? With books, I am not so bad. The cover would have to be HORRIBLE for me to avoid it! The plot will always speak louder to me than a cover.

  2. What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it just for the sake of reading it without thinking what my comment is going to be or if there is going to be one at all. And yet here I am writing it. I just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the book cheating and cover picking in literary and social life.

  3. I have been branching out more and more since I have been reading blogs and reading the recommendations I have been more willing to look beyond the cover to find something good. I think more so than covers I tend to get drawn in by first paragraphs and chapters. I compulsively read the first little bits of books to see the writing style, etc. and sometimes if a book really grabs me I will have no choice but to continue reading.

  4. Loved your post Sheri! I will be honest and tell you that cover art really plays a big role into whether or not I'm attracted to a book. From there if the story sounds great then I'll read it. Like Nicole posted, I've been guided for almost 9 months now by book bloggers and so far I really haven't been disappointed. Some of them have introduced me to a book that I would've PASSED UP because I didn't like the cover.

  5. Sheri, good to see you here and quite the thought provoking post you came up with. lol. I'm with Staci, I very often pick a book solely because of the cover. However if the story doesn't sound good I don't pick it up. Same goes for a book that maybe the cover isn't so great but the book is except that I turn the cover upside down so I don't have to look at it.

    With people, I don't know why, but I'll tend to gravitate towards the quieter, maybe shyer people. A lot of the time they turn out to be someone I have something in common with. That being said I'll pretty much strike up a conversation with anyone in the doc's office, post office, etc. lol.

  6. I'm much better at avoiding the cover problem by simply buying books that sounds great in the synopsis, but those can lie as well!

    However, if I find myself wandering aimlessly in a bookstore without a purpose, covers will attract me initially...but I rarely buy a book without first reading the synopsis.

  7. Great post!

    I'm also attracted to books by their covers - for authors I don't know. If I know them and like them, it won't matter what the cover art is for me to buy/borrow the book.

  8. Thanks, guys!

    Yeah, I really like Wendy's blog and was so happy to guest post here. I appreciate the comments!

    Dar... surprised about the shyness thing!


  9. Wow, what a great post. I never really thought about how book covers and my own prejudices against certain genres affect my reading choices. I will say that since I have been blogging I have branched out alot in my reading. I used to read mostly non-fiction (believe it or not) and now enjoy many kinds of fiction. I'm a little less likely to want to read the vampire stories but I tried Anne Rice and loved her!

  10. I do judge a book by it's cover.. Romance-bodice covers seem silly to me, yet many of the old historicals were released that way!! It's funny to see trashy covers on the newer classy reissues! I live a pretty cover that makes me feel happy to carry around. As far as people go, I am sure I judge instinctively but I really haven't given it much thought. I don't meet anyone regularly in real life so it's hard to tell.
    Sheri, you wrote a great post & I have always loved your easy writing style. =)

  11. Oh & I HATE blood & violence too!! I don't mind suspense & thrills as long as it's not bloody!

  12. Being in a book club is what keeps me honest. There are soooooo many books with horrid covers that I would just turn a blind eye to, had it not been my book group pushing me to read it. Now it doesn't always work out well, but it does force me to try books that I would not normally pick up on my own.

    A success story would be Uncle Tom's Cabin. I would never have read that on my own but to this day it is still once of my fave books.

  13. Hello Sherri!

    I really enjoy reading this post. While I'm attracted to beautiful covers, I don't really care for them because a good story is always more important to me.

    Wendy, this is a great post. Thanks for featuring Sherri. :D

  14. OK, my apologies... I spelled Sheri's name wrongly in the first comment post. Sorry...

  15. I can't believe that I've never read Uncle Tom's Cabin! I need to do that!


  16. I find that when I'm in a bookstore, covers do influence my choices, at least to the point of choosing which books I'm going to pick up to take a closer look. When I shop online, it's usually with a recommendation already in mind, so covers don't matter as much.

    I'm currently getting an interesting look at covers from "the other side" while my own upcoming book, "Buckley's Story - Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher" is going through cover design. Since I'm self-publishing, I do have final say, and I want the cover to not only look wonderful, but also reflect the "feel" of my story. At the same time, I also want the cover to be commercially viable. I think it's possible to have both, but I'm surprised at how emotional this part of the publishing journey is for me.

    I'd like to think that when it comes to life, not books, I always look beyond the cover - but I'm sure there are situations when I'm not even aware that the initial judgment of a person or situation is, alas, based on the cover.

  17. Great post, Sheri!
    I do get attracted by a book with a beautiful cover, but then again I'm more interested in its story than the cover, though there're times I buy a book with an attractive cover and ended up liking the story too!

  18. I love this topic! You bring up so many good points, Sheri, and have encouraged a great discussion. Thanks to all who commented!

    I tend to believe we all judge books by their covers to some degree, whether it be a person or a book. If you have the choice between sitting next to the nice looking man in a suit and the scruffy and filthy looking man that sort of smells, most people would chose to sit next to the guy in the suit if you have to sit at all.

    And with books, I certainly am attracted to certain covers more than others. Now, like with people, I know that first impressions can be deceiving and so I like to know what's inside before I fully pass judgment. I've never read a book solely because I liked the cover. I have to be interested in the book itself. Still, it may make the difference in whether I pick that book up in the bookstore or not.

    Being that I'm a quiet person, I tend to flock to quiet people in a crowded room. I'll look for the woman who looks a little out of place--because that's just how I feel. So, yeah, I can totally relate to what you are saying. But as the quiet person, I also do a lot of observing. I listen and can usually pick out from listening long enough who I will connect with and who I won't regardless of outward appearance. I think that's an important key--you have to be willing to look inside the cover so to speak. Also, having been misjudged often enough, I know how unfair judging a person or book by outward appearance can be. Knowing that, I try to keep an open mind and be flexible in my impressions of people--and books--as a result.

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Sheri! I appreciate your being a guest here on my blog. It's been a difficult two weeks so far and not having to worry about my blog has been a blessing.


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