on reading books & their covers: it's complicated

i wish i'd taken my college reading assignments way more seriously. as freshmen, we were assigned so many wonderful works of literature... but their greatness was lost on me, because instead of reading them, i often (but certainly not always) managed only to skim. nowadays, i am disgusted with my past self for being so flippant about what i now view as lost opportunities. in my present situation as a bookseller, i constantly update and add to my list of books to read. it is going to be an uphill battle to actually try and get through that list, and skimming through the classics in college sealed my fate of having to reread them now. sigh.

this made me ponder the somewhat frivolous question of book covers + their impact on a reader. what if the books i read in college had had fabulous covers? would i have read them more thoroughly? (i think this thought process might be a result of crossing an artist with a bibliophile.) let's have an example:

fig. 1

i read the austere-looking white noise on the left, as opposed to the artistically rendered one on the right. i  believe that a book's cover communicates something about its contents to the reader, so maybe my idea of the novel would have been different if we'd read the same book with a different cover. h o w e v e r, if i were to hear a college freshman argue that a cover changes one's reading experience, i would totally roll my eyes and think to myself that the cover design is beside the point—because white noise is a masterpiece, no matter what it looks like. en fin, i don't believe that a book's cover will influence one's opinion of the contents... and yet, i cannot deny my love for beautiful book covers that say something to me.

anyway, speaking of beautiful book covers that say things—
i've talked about peter mendelsund before. i love his simple, geometric and often spare designs. before, we talked kafka. (those still haven't released, but i am kind of counting the days until they do.) today, let's talk about dostoevsky, whose book notes from underground was one that i read in college, but very poorly, and therefore remains on my to-read list. ahem.

what crazy person wouldn't want to read these!? i'm just saying.

but listen: i stand by what i said before: it really is the work itself that matters. i love both art + literature dearly, but i never avoided reading something because it wasn't pretty enough. (seriously. perish the thought. and let's be honest, i skimmed some of the classics in college because i was a lazy, unenlightened 19-year-old.) (also, let's talk about how many ART books have ugly covers....)

the fact is simply this: when a good book has an equally good cover, it positively gleams with an irresistible quality! and that is that.

in conclusion, i hope you all have a wonderful tuesday!
h a s t a p r o n t o!


  1. i want the other edition of white noise so much i might cry.

  2. i'm not going to lie: i pluck it off the shelf every time we get it in the store and cradle it like a baby bird. maybe we need to chat with someone about our issues...

  3. I think that having a dynamic color can make me interested in a book, but it doesn't mean I'm going to continue reading a bad book, or remember a mediocre one. It's simply helps the initial drive to read.

  4. i agree with you. there are definitely a mountain of terrible books with amazing covers, and vice versa. the cover is there to catch your eye, but no matter how lovely it is, the content is what you have to fall in love with... ultimately.

  5. Annie I love checking your blog and seeing what new awe-inspiring thing your going to write about that day. Which is why I pass this Liebsten Blog Award to you!
    (Pass it on to five bloggers with less than 100 followers)


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