Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Judging a Book By Its Cover

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you can do just that. Or at the very least you can judge the cover itself, both in relation to the book contained within and as a stand-alone work of art. The ten covers below are among my favorites, for reasons that will be explained beneath each one.

One of the greatest novels ever written, with an iconic cover that was replaced in the paperback editions by the more familiar (and perhaps more fitting) bullfighting image. If you see this cover in your local thrift shop, grab it; you just made several thousand dollars.

Another amazing book (perhaps my favorite of all time). It is simply done, with the tag line at the bottom that sums up the book better than any New York Times reviewer could.

I discovered this book shortly after it came out in 1985, and it is as disturbing now as it was then. But the writing was like nothing I'd read before, and it was the vanguard novel of a new generation of writers. Just as important, the cover art screamed "cool." 

Another legendary cover from one of the "Lost Generation" writers of the 1920s. A great novel and a cover every college student since World War II would recognize immediately.

This was one scary book, and the darkness of the cover reflects the darkness contained within. The road fits nicely with both the physical and emotional journey the characters endure, and (like the cover for The Razor's Edge) the tag line at the bottom is sure to grab you.

A street shrouded in fog, a streetlamp from a bygone era, the solitary silhouette of an unknown man. They couldn't have come up with a better cover for this stunning novel if they tried for a hundred years.

Long before we ever saw Daniel Radcliff on a movie screen, we knew exactly what Harry Potter looked like. The broom, the scar, Hogwarts in the distance. This cover is perfect.

Dan Jenkins is one of the funniest writers ever, and since he sets most of his books in my hometown, I have a special fondness for him. In the case of Baja Oklahoma, simply seeing the cover reminds me of home.

This the only cover represented that is not the original, first edition cover. Not that the first edition cover for On the Road was bad; for me this later version just captures the spirit of the novel much better.

This cover is the best so far from "The Hollows" series about a bounty hunting witch. It's also one of the only times I bought a book because of the cover. What can I say...I'm a guy.

One last note about book covers. For any book published in the last century (about the time they started putting separate dust jackets on hardback books), 90 percent of the value to collectors is in the condition of the dust jacket. It may simply be because adult novels no longer contain illustrations and the only visually artistic part of the book is the dust jacket; whatever the reason, keep those covers in perfect condition.

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