“Never Judge A Book By Its Cover” – Er, Why Not?

I know this idiom is usually used metaphorically but I’m taking its very literal meaning here. Forgive me, if you can. I am quite curious, you see. I want to know: Does the appearance of the cover page of a book matter to any of you in any way? Do you take the cover design under consideration when buying a book?  Well, I must say that I do. But probably not in the way you think.

Books with plain, no-frill cover-designs, I have found, come out to be good, generally speaking. Also, books with gaudy images or garish colours on their cover pages, I have, by and large, disapproved of. Their content has turned out as ostentatious as their cover pages. Or sometimes, simply bad.

I am certainly not trying to show that every book with an unadorned cover page is going to be a nice read, or that every book with flashy cover is going to suck. But since this rationale has held true in most of the cases, I have started to take it as a rule of thumb.

You know, my most favourite book happens to be the debut novel of an English author Susanne Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell. It had, I remember very clearly, one of the austerest cover-designs I’d ever seen on any book, of any language. It featured the title, a small picture of a raven and the name of the author transcribed in black on a pristine white  background.

Many of my friends who are frequent readers deemed the starkly simple cover-design off-putting. I, did not. I was not terribly surprised. Most people despise simple aspects of life, I being an exception. I found the cover peculiarly attractive. Charmingly unsophisticated. Kind of cute, even.

It, the cover-page of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, in a very lucid yet succinct manner, told the readers what the book was about. No brassy pictures involving monsters, otherworldly creatures, magicians and other things here even though the story had a fair-share of them. It was basically about magicians.

I’d already heard some good reviews about the book from some people whose judgement I always treat with respect, so I bought the book immediately. I loved the book, incidentally. Very much, indeed.

As simple as it gets

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is another example. It had very plain cover designs. That is, before the TV show happened. The version I bought back in 2005 had this sort of cover-page. Name of the book, author and the main issue of the conflicts portrayed in the story – the Iron Throne. That’s it. Yes. I liked the book and also all the subsequent books in the series.

You win or you die.

All right. Now let us come to a book which I, to put it simply, loathed. Thundergod – The Ascendance of Indra. Its cover design was particularly tawdry with Indra (hero of the story) facing down a serpentine monster with rays of lightning as his weapon. It looked like a scene from a fairy-tale. Except, fairy-tales were actually fun. As it turned out, the content was even worse, if that was possible. Prose was akin to a pedestrian mystery novel. I couldn’t finish it, actually.


So that’s it. I’m by no means saying that cover designs matter in every case, but mostly, aye, they do. Obviously, I have leafed through a lot of books which are exceptions to the rule. Some Stephen King novels come to mind. Do you know of any? If yes, please let me know in the following comments. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving this post a go.


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