Why You Shouldn’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Book spines

Credit: jvoves, Flickr

Imagine you’re in a book shop. You see a recent best seller sitting on the shelf, calling to you. An intriguing title, a nice image on the front; whatever the appeal, you’re drawn in, and eagerly purchase it without haste. When you arrive home, you read a single page before tossing it aside in a huff. What went wrong? Well, as the old saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. So how should you judge a book, if not by its cover? We examine the three common mistakes made when choosing a good book, and provide some solutions to end those frustrating bad picks once and for all!

Mistake #1:
‘It’s a best seller, so it must be a good read!’
Though it might sound obvious, it needs to be said: there is no single book that everyone is guaranteed to like. We all have widely different tastes and preferences, and as the popularity of recent books such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey has shown us, even the most highly selling books can be strongly opposed, mocked and even downright hated. If many people buy a book, it could also be due to media hype or heavy advertising, and not because it has particularly outstanding content. So even though it’s labelled as a best seller, it won’t necessarily turn out to be your best read.

Mistake #2: ‘It has such a great title/cover. This looks like just the sort of book I’d like to read!’
This is unfortunately an easy mistake to make, because the very first impression we get of a book is often its cover, and if we like what we see it influences us, whether we realise it or not. And this goes both ways! Not only could a hidden gem be enclosed within a drab, plain cover, but the brightest, glossiest and most visually pleasing cover may turn out to house a dud. The cover can often mean the difference between picking up a book to inspect it further, or passing over it completely. This is a real tragedy, because that plain-Jane book you didn’t glance twice at just might have great content! The same goes for the title of a book; many people are persuaded to buy or not buy based on names. But what you need to remember is that names can be misleading, and even if the book has a great title and a visually pleasing cover or title, this does not mean the writing will be to your liking as well. So if you’re going to buy a book just because its title and cover appeal to you, beware: it may just mean that the book had a generous budget for its cover design.

Mistake #3: ‘I don’t need to read the blurb, I can already tell what it’s about!’
Many weary book shoppers have rushed home with their spontaneous purchases only to find that the murder mystery they eagerly picked up is actually a romance, or another genre entirely. How does this happen? It’s easy to be misled by titles and covers, particularly ones that could appeal to fans of multiple genres. Book buyers can look at the title and cover and like what they see so much that they forget to read the blurb to see what the story is actually about! Here’s a small tip to avoid this mistake: read the blurb.

Now you know what mistakes not to make, here are a few solutions to make sure you pick a winner every time:

Solution #1: Crack those pages open and start reading!
A great way to avoid purchases of books you’ll never read is to actually crack them open in-store and read a few pages for yourself. You’d be surprised what a brief flick-through of a book can reveal, even if only to see that the font style and size is to your liking. Some fonts are not pleasing to the eye, and it’s possible for a font to be too small to read, or border on being too large and be a distraction from the story when you have to turn the page too often. Additionally, and even more importantly, having a quick read gives you a brief feel for the writing style of the book, and even possibly the story if you stand there reading long enough! You can also observe the use of punctuation, as there are some books out there that use it unconventionally (e.g. not using quotation marks to indicate when someone is talking), and this may be a deterrent to reading.

Solution #2: Read the blurb to get a feel for the story.
If you don’t want to read a few sample pages, or you’re unable to due to packaging, the best and most obvious thing to do is to read the blurb on the back. The blurb is there for a crucial reason; it tells you exactly what you’re getting. Think of it as an advertisement for the story. Its purpose is to sell you the book and its story in as few words as possible, and often this is enough to tell whether you’d find the book interesting. Keep in mind however that the blurb does not guarantee you will like the writing style or use of font, so always try to flick through the pages if you get the chance!

So there you have it! Just remember: don’t get distracted by intriguing names, pretty covers or best seller status, and instead focus on ensuring a book has good content that you find interesting and relevant to you. The next book you buy, you definitely won’t regret.

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