Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Judging Books By Covers
I've always found the adage 'don't judge a book by its cover' rather strange. In its metaphorical sense, all well and good, but surely, in the realm of books, it isn't sound advice? A huge amount of money and expertise is spent in making sure the covers to books are pertinent and, what is more, attractive to the buyer. When wandering around a bookshop, I'm never going to pick up an unknown author without the aid of the cover artwork - whether I buy or not is another matter, but my initial guide has to be the exterior.
Most of the books I own are old hardbacks, which are now bereft of their dustjackets. Apparently it was once commonplace to discard these upon purchase, or soon after. So when an attractive cover comes along, I'm even more appreciative. When I find a beautiful one, I just love looking at it, like any other piece of artwork. So I hope you don't think it shallow of me that I've perused my bookshelves for my favourite covers. We can even make this into a little vote - do comment and say which is your favourite. The main picture, since I chose an odd number of books, is Kate Chopin's collection of short stories, Portraits, and the one I like best.
1. Monday or Tuesday - Virginia Woolf - the sublime Hesperus at their best.
2. The Summer Book - Tove Jansson - you all know that I love this book! The cover just invites you to dive in.
3. Faster! Faster! - EM Delafield 4. Mr. Pim Passes By - AA Milne - these two are some of the few old hardbacks I have which are still cloaked in dustjackets, and rather beautiful ones. They don't have the vivid colours of modern covers, but both lovely pieces of art in themselves.
5. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen - my collection of Austen novels all come with close-ups of contemporary clothing. A great set, and this one is my favourite
6. William-An Englishman - Cicely Hamilton - I chose this as representative of Persephone Books, since it's their first one. Beautiful, soft, dove grey covers.
7. The Matisse Stories - AS Byatt - a book 'about' an artist ought to be beautiful, oughtn't it?
8. Queen Lucia - EF Benson - another series of great arty covers, and this my favourite of the six
9. Emotional Geology - Linda Gillard - an old internet friend, and a book published by Transita press. They do such wonderful covers, especially on their first publications.
10. Five Quarters of the Orange - Joanne Harris - these covers made a publication trend all of their own, quite deservedly.
Is it any coincidence that I've read all these books? And when I haven't read over half the books I own, these covers must be doing something right. Let me know your favourite.