Friday Coffee Chat - Do You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading and I have decided to work on Friday Coffee Chat together from now on so after you read my post, go check out her post on "Book Covers...Are They Art?". 

After our discussion last week on, "Are you a book snob?", I thought I would discuss a related topic this week. A few comments were made that yes, we sometimes are book snobs, and we sometimes judge when people read books we don't find worth reading. By that same token, we sometimes get judged for the things we read be it Young Adult, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Comics, Romance, or Science Fiction. We had a great discussion and if you want to read how people felt, click HERE to go to the post. The comments were great and everyone was really insightful AND honest. 

Some of the comments last week made me start thinking that since we sometimes judge people when we see them reading a book that doesn't appeal to us, do we sometimes judge a book by its cover? I have also most definitely fallen into this category. Too many times have I looked at a book and been like, "Only weird nerdy people would read that," or "Geez...Fabio XIV is on the cover! Who would read that?" 

There are a few books I have definitely been proven wrong:


Ten years ago, my husband BEGGED me to read Ender's Game. We were newlyweds so of course I couldn't refuse him, but really inside I was thinking, "What a nerd! Only weirdos read books with spaceships on the cover!!" I read it so that he wouldn't rethink marrying me and guess what? I read both it AND the next book in the series (Speaker for the Dead for all you who are wondering) in one weekend. They were fantastic! I have since read Ender's Game two more times as well, and I hardly ever read a book more than once. The other book I judged by its cover (c'mon really could have done better) was A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Again, it was my husband that told me, "You have to read this!" Being the good wife that I am (insert snarky comment here..hehe) I said "OK," but inside I said, "This is such a dude book. Only guys read books with weird drawn on lions on the cover." It was another book that I was blown away by. I love it. It's in my Top 5 Books of All-Time. 

Then there are the books with the gorgeous covers with stories that are so boring they just make you want to go into a waking coma for months like Bella in New Moon (I'm owning it book snobs! I read the Twilight series!). The only book I can remember being like this was The Fifth Book of Peace which to me was The First Book of Torture. I didn't finish it. I wasn't interested in the story, but boy, was that cover pretty.

I am definitely not saying that it was a bad book, but it just really didn't speak to me on any level at all. Maybe I'll give it another try someday (I do still own it).

So my questions for you Friday Coffee Chat readers are:
  • Do you ever judge a book by its cover? 
  • Have you ever read a book you thought would just be horrible that you were pleasantly surprised after reading?
  • If you have had these experiences, how did it change your book buying habits?
  • Do you judge people less if you have read a book with a corny romance cover, or a super hot vampire girl/guy, someone with a cape on, or any other thing that you just initially turned your nose up at and ended up enjoying? 

Also, remember to check out Girls Gone Reading's "Book Covers...Are They Art?" post. She has some really great covers on there!


Man of la Books said...

I don't judge a book by its cover, but I do pre-judge a book by its cover.

For example, I don't like chick-lit (it doesn't speak to me), romance book or the new wave of vampire related literature.

Any book which has a cover associated with these genres I won't even pick up.

Covers are important for a book because they let us weed down what we're not interested in.

Anonymous said...

I do judge a book by its cover - but I also read the blurb on the back if the cover looks nice. The cover is a big part of whether I'll want to read the book or not.

Last year I reserved a book from the library and it had one of those romancy covers. I only read it in the house, didn't want to carry it around with me - the shame of being seen with that book! And yes, it was pretty romancy and not really "me". But I did enjoy reading it.

Rikki said...

Actually, no, I don't.
Admittedly there are books the covers of which I find extremely distasteful (do I need to say romance), but that does not stop me from buying the book. If I like the blurb or topic or whatever, I don't care about the cover.
On the other hand I find a lot of covers really pretty and still don't buy the book because of the content. I hate chick lit, but often my taste is very girly, so a lot of chick lit covers catch my eye at first. But as it soon becomes obvious what the book is about I turn around and leave it alone.

I'm not sure I agree with Man of la book's last sentence. Based on the cover we might weed out books that we would have been interested in, simply because the cover didn't speak to us.

Sarah (My World of Books) said...

I tend to judge a book by its cover. There are just some books I would feel uncomfortable reading in public so I usually stay clear of those unless I buy the ebook.

The cover is what catches our eyes at a book store. I don't think we can help ourselves when we judge. If a book looks to sci-fi, I tend not to even read the blurb, but I am probably missing out on a very fantastic read or not.

I don't judge sometimes when I see other people with books that have funky covers. I only judge when I see people reading books I don't like. I am just sitting there thinking, "Why the hell are they reading that crap?" But everyone has their own style so to each her own.

Carin B. said...

@Man of Ia Books - I get you. I think most men wouldn't like chick-lit and romancey books (although I am sure there are some out there, right?) so I would imagine those covers don't appeal to you! I think covers are important too, but I'm learning not to prejudge because I wouldn't have read fantastic books like Ender's Game or Hyperion (I forgot to mention that one--it's one my favorite sci-fi books). I do get you though. A nice cover is what often makes me pick up a book.

@leeswammes - Oh I have DEFINITELY been ashamed to take a few books out in public so I read them on my e-book reader! Isn't that bad?!! I'm trying to come to a place where I can just feel comfortable reading whatever I want out in public without worrying what other people think. Someday I will get there! Oh, I often read the blurb on the back too. A well-written blurb is likely to get me to buy the book!

@Rikki - You know what?!! I am drawn to chick-lit covers too and I don't read chick-lit (although I added two books to my TBR list on @chachictweets recommendations)! I love them I guess because it's my inner girl. In general, I'm a total tomboy, but those cute covers with the nice little curly girly titles and cartoony ladies on them tempt me all the time. Guess it's time for me to try some. I actually thought you might be one to judge covers because you do the cover comparisons of German/English books on your blog. I've been thinking about the last one you posted with the guy on the envelope...I would probably be more likely to buy the Chinese looking covers than the ones that were actually more relevant to the story (I think those were the two German covers) even though I commented that I liked the German covers! They were just prettier overall.

Carin B. said...

@Sarah - LOL! "Why the hell are they reading that crap?" That is too funny! I really judge sci-fi books by their covers. It's so sad because I like sci-fi, but sometimes the covers are SO weird looking. I'm still learning to embrace my inner nerd so I actually have to make an effort not to pass over books with spaceships on them. :)

It seems like everyone has a type of book they are embarrassed to read in public. I wonder why we feel so embarrassed? It's not like we'll see all these people that might be judging us again, so why do we care? Anyone want to chime in on this?

Rikki said...

Carin, I so know what you mean about the chick lit covers. All pink and cute fonts and things, I'm all over them, but I@d never read
Actually I do like to judge a cover, wheter I like it or not, but not the book itself by the cover, if that makes any sense.

I suppose we are embarrassed because even the opinions of people we don't know matter in our minds. I'd NEVER read a romance novel in public (well, not the typical cover-ed one anyway), but this is exactly what e-readers are made for, lol. People curiously ask me all the time about it, if they knew what's stored on it, they'd probably faint, :-).

Zee said...

I want to say no but if I'm honest probably yes. I just don't do it consciously. If a book has an intriguing cover I am more likely to pick it up, but I am not sure I could describe what that intriguing thing was. This would mean that less intriguing covers might not get the look. I don't however judge a book solely by its cover, other things play in as well.

Also I am never really concerned by what other people think about what I read, but then again I walked through Edinburgh at the height of the Festival reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which was before it was cool for adults to read it) and yes, you read it right, I walk and read :D

Carin B. said...

@Zee - Was there really a time when Harry Potter wasn't cool for adults to read? I am thinking no. A few people use Harry Potter as an example, but everyone I know has read the series MULTIPLE times. Also, it's a fantastic series (even though I've only read it once).

For embarrassing I'm thinking more along the lines of romance (which Sarah just tweeted a hilarious cover to me--and I admitted that yes, I would be too embarrassed to read that in public), erotica, some political book (yes Anne Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin...not that I would read their books, but I would be embarrassed to read them in public if I did), or books with elves/wizards/aliens etc. Some people are just comfortable and are like, "I own it. I read books with wizards and aliens," while others are closet wizard and alien addicts.

Do you ever judge others when you see the covers of the books they are reading?

Fiona said...

Hmm difficult question.

Yes, I am prejudiced against many front covers. I don't think its out of embarrassment but more out of disgust - maybe it is the same thing!

1. I don't like photographs on covers. Especially of faces or people.

2. I don't like glossy front covers.

3. I don't like tv/movie tie-ins.

4. I don't like this wash of YA usually has some... high definition like photo of a character on the front page or a bodice sticking out or something.

5. I don't like pink-books or overly girly books or wish washy books aimed at women. Why must they be wishy washy? Never been attracted to Jodi Picoult for this reason (Images of faces, wishy washy colours) though I do have The Pact by her to read, which sounds really good even though it's some washed out looking green.

I DO love specific editions of books:

I prefer MOST American editions over British ones. Better designed, better text, smells better, the paper is softer and lovely to turn. I have shelled out more to get the American edition. It is very obvious when in a bookstore finding books that are imported from the US because they just feel different.

I LOVE Modern Library paperbacks - with the gold spines. They're available over here and getting more commmon though a tad expensive in shops. Who cares I prefer them!

I love Vintage classics - with the red spines.

I love Oxford World Classics.

I don't like black Penguin classics - flimsy paper, don't like the text size but their translated work I find is better.

I don't care if I have a naked man or a naked woman on the front cover - I wouldn't say I get embarrassed, just irritated.

Book covers are influential - as other people mentioned you can't help but judge! When I start a book I like to examine the front cover carefully over the period of reading so I don't want it irritating me too much. I don't mind if they're boring, I just don't like any of the above.

I find anything where there is a clearly defined picture of a face - or anything on it, really annoys me. I want to imagine the character how I want - not how the cover art designer wants me to, especially as you never know if they've actually read the whole book or not!

The cover should be interesting and reflect the book itself. I love seeing different covers from different countries as it's interesting seeing the choices. Why does this cover appeal to Americans rather then British? And vice versa.

Book covers should in my opinion, be carefully considered works of art. I like seeing that proper care and attention has been put into them - not just some photoshopped jumble of photographs or pictures.

Hmm... I don't mean to sound too grumpy but sometimes book covers irritate me! It's all down to personal opinion of course and they can't please everyone.

Which is why I always like looking out when they do a cover re-design. I bought Iris Murdoch The Sea, The Sea lately because I adored the new Vintage covers. Before it looked so murky and boring. I am a mood reader - and so a design that appeals to me will effect my mood and what angle I look at a book.

Fiona said...

Oh my lord panic attack... I posted that long message, forgot to copy to my clipboard and then it came up with an error... thank god it posted.

Carin B. said...

@Fiona - I am not a fan of movie tie-ins much either and when I think about it, I'm not much of a fan of pictures of people on covers (although I think it can be done well. I did like The Time Traveler's Wife cover and The Bonesetter's Daughter cover).

I am actually surprised by your like of American covers. I am quite the opposite. I like the British ones better usually. They tend to be more minimalist than American ones. Do you get frustrated with American spelling since it's different (I do wonder why we spell things differently)?

I think you're right about faces. There is an Anne McCaffrey series that I really like the cover art for and now I get offended when I see other depictions of the character (see Dragonsong with artwork by Rowena). It probably is better left to the imagination even though I do love that Rowena cover artwork.

Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading said...

Great post! I def. judge books based on the people who are reading them, and I am sad to say that I judge people by the books they pick you.

Cheesy romance covers automatically make you go down in my book...sad, I know! I also avoid some books based on their cover, and I have also been surprised. I just read Water for Elephants-which I avoided like the plague. Finally I gave into my friend's demands, and I LOVED it!

And I own it too-read Twilight, own the movies, like Jacob's abs :)

Fiona said...

I prefer some British covers - I tend to like British YA covers then American... but on a whole I like American editions. They FEEL nicer. I'm a book sniffer - I have bought books purely because I like the feel and smell of the paper. (Mad I know.)

Take these two covers:

The American:

The British:

I bought the American edition. It describes the story much better. It is a fictional memoir about a writer/journalist from the 20's-90's he also collects art and is involved in that world. The American one is so much more descriptive of what the book is about without giving anything away.

I don't know what the British one is about, it doesn't convey the feeling of the book at all.

And the American edition - Vintage International - just feels nicer, the texture of the front covers and the silky pages within. I'm sounding a little demented I'm sure but y'know it counts.

re: American spellings - it does irritate me when they change British spellings to American, or when an American author sets something in the UK but uses American spellings. It doesn't feel real to me then. If you're going to go to the trouble of making them sound British may as well use the spellings.

I'd be equally annoyed reading a book set in the USA with British spellings. I mean it isn't hard to figure out that colour and color are the same word. Mind, I don't think that has ever really happened, in the UK we're much more aware I think of American culture then vice versa.

I suppose in children's literature I can kind of understand - might not want to confuse the kids. But I think it's better to make them aware. I've had enough people tell me that I'm spelling colour wrong or that it shoudl be -ize rather then -ise (as in standardised/standardized).

I love the covers to the American Harry Potters but can't stand the Americanisations. They changed things like jumpers and trainers to sweaters and sneakers - never mind changing Philosopher's Stone to the Sorcerer's Stone. Just in case kids got confused as to what a Philosopher was.

That irritates me - people being worried that others won't understand so making it simpler. If you expect people to just learn it, chances are they will. They could always introduce a glossary in the back of children's books to explain britishisms.

I do love the differences in american and british languages - fanny in the UK is the complete opposite of fanny in the US which probably causes some hilarious misunderstandings!

That was something I didn't know until only a few years ago. In one book I read someone said she had 'callouses on her fanny' which uhm probably not the best image for me! But y'know I figured it out and I wasn't offended. I guess I would understand if they edited that out of a children's book though.

Anyway, going spectacularly off topic here.

Carin B. said...

@Jennifer - You know, I loved the cover to Water for Elephants. I'm not gonna lie! Someday I'm going to take out a cheesy romance book and read it in a cafe or something just to prove I can do it! LOL!

@Fiona - Haha! I like the British cover better. I have no idea why. The American one is corny.

I am actually going to somewhat disagree with you on the British words. I don't think a lot of Americans would know British words for sweater or sneakers. Keep making awesome movies like Bend it Like Beckham and Harry Potter though and kids will know. I do agree that they should have left it the same though and put in a little glossary at the back because in my mind it's a learning thing. I think we are too isolationist/nationalist in our ways and don't learn about other countries' cultures so if we open ourselves up to it, we'll just be better off in the long run. Not all Americans are resistant to learning new things from other cultures, but I have to's a problem.

For instance--I LOVE The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, but they are remaking it into an American version. Why?!!!! The Swedish film is SO fantastic! Brad Pitt and whoever they choose for Lisbeth cannot do justice to Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace's performances. There is such a wealth of talent in European film, but we don't see a lot of subtitled films in America because we find subtitles distracting. *SIGH* It's frustrating. I want to be a force for change--I will go see foreign films in the theater, be willing to learn about other cultures, and hope that this rubs off on the people I encounter!

That being said which is off-topic, hehe, I am convinced you are a book cover snob!...There! I said it! LOL! I will parade a pink covered romance novel in front of you so you will judge me someday. :P

Fiona said...

Oh noooooo not pink boooooks!! I shall come at you with my corny book covers and we can see who wins.

What's ironic is that I actually suit pink - I even wear pink. Bright pink in fact. So a pink book would look good on me.

I wonder if they re-designed chick-lit and gave it a macho cover if some men would enjoy it... probably not for some/most I guess.

I wish we had more European films as well... non-English language I mean as well.

I haven't seen the Dragon Tattoo film yet (love the books) but I won't be going to see anything with Brad Pitt in it. Originals are usually always better.

p.s Bend it like Beckham is awesome...! Have you ever seen Billy Elliot or The Full Monty? Both I think were quite successful in the US, they're great films but surprising they became so popular.

Carin B. said...

@Fiona - Yes! I saw them both! They were fantastic! I like Kinky Boots too. That might be one of my favorite UK movies of all-time. :)

Carin B. said...

@Fiona - Honestly, I think book readers and hardcore movie watchers know a lot of UK books/film so the cultural differences aren't too terrible. It's the people that only go see things like Transformers (and I love Transformers--just not the movies) and other blockbuster films are the people that would be confused. Of course, I did have to ask you what fanny meant, but I do know other differences like fag = cigarette! hehe

Zee said...

I posted a reply last nigh, or so I though #shouldn'tpostewhenexhausted

So here is the gist of what I said. I don't think Harry Potter was all that embarrassing but where I worked people definitely thought it fell on the not cool side. I didn't really care though :D

Anonymous said...

I admit I sometimes choose a book for its cover. I can't help it, I just can't resist a pretty cover!

I must check out Ender's Game if you liked it that much. I haven't read any of Orson Scott Card's books but have heard good things about them.

I loved A Game of Thrones too and am hoping to read A Clash of Kings soon. I'm SO excited about the TV adaptation they are making.

Carin B. said...

@chasingbawa - Oh I am so excited about it too! "Winter is Coming". Maybe I should do a George R.R. Martin read-a-long in January! Oooo...that might be fun. Let me know what you think about Clash of Kings. I've read all but the last book because I've been trying to wait for Dance with Dragons.

I really liked Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead (I actually liked Speaker for the Dead even more, but both are fantastic). Both books are Hugo winners I think. I think Card is leading me into my Friday Coffee Chat question for next week (we had a big debate on Shelfari) so make sure you come back!

Scrabblequeen said...

Okay, I'll own my "yes" here. I shy away from sci-fi with gross covers and "romance" with half-dressed women draped over manly men's arms....yuck!! Titles can do me in, too. Yes, sometimes I probably miss something good...but chances are someone will come along and "encourage" me to give it a chance if it's really good. (as in Ender's Game, for example)

Carin B. said...

@Scrabblequeen - Oh I definitely have that issue, but I'm trying to remedy that too. Hyperion was one of those sci-fi books that I would have snickered at a few years ago and it is one of the best books I've ever read. I'm glad you just said, "Yes," because you are not alone! I think a lot of people fall into that category!

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