Do Judge a Book by its Cover (Someone Worked Really Hard on it)

We shouldn’t judge people based on how they look. We all know this. I know that I should not judge that girl for wearing high heels to the farmer’s market. I know I want to, but I know I shouldn’t. And I LOVE being wrong about that girl and learning that she shares my affinity for The New Yorker and South Park.

However, the metaphor about book covers never really worked for me because I just love book covers so much. I love book covers so much, that sometimes I go to the book store or library and pick out a book JUST based on its cover. It’s a fun experiment. And more often than not if I love the cover, I love the book.

Publishers and graphic designers put a great deal of time and energy into deciding just how that cover is going to look and it must be pretty frustrating for them to hear time and time again that we shouldn’t judge the book based on the cover! Now, I’m not saying you can learn EVERYTHING about a book from its cover, but its job is to draw you in, pique your interest and essentially sell you on the book.  So go ahead and judge it! That’s what it’s there for!

Whenever I hand out a new book in my class, we always discuss the cover before we discuss the book. We talk about the title, the placement of the words, the author’s name, and the art if there is any.

Penguin By Design  is one of my favorite books on this subject. When discussing covers with my students, we always take a look at this wonderful book. It’s filled with so many interesting and beautiful covers as well as the history behind them.

Once we’ve finished a book, we always go back and look at the cover again and discuss our assumptions versus our actual knowledge of the text. We obviously have varying opinions about what covers we like and don’t like, but we always all agree that we HATE when publishers use the movie poster of the film adaptation as the book cover and slap that silly sticker on there that says “Now a major motion picture!” Now, I love movies, and I know they hope it will sell more copies, but come on. COME ON. I sometimes wish instead the stickers said, “This is a book!”


Finally, check out this AWESOME website Out of Print Clothing that one of my students showed me! It has some of my all time favorite book covers printed on cute, comfy tees :



Oh, and happy judging!


  • Robyn Pennington

    That’s interesting. I never thought about judging a book by its actual cover. You’re totally right that you can tell a lot about a book by its cover and what its contents are probably going to be like. I wish you’d been my high school english teacher, she sucked lol

  • Laura E

    I totally do that !! I love it though, there are so many beautiful book covers, it sometimes gets me really interested in the artist behind the work too :)

  • Yajaira Nuribeth Calderon

    I don’t judge books by their cover, instead I judge them by their title. I have discovered some good books and authors doing so. That’s how I discovered Sloane Crosley, when I saw “I was told there’d be cake”. And when I say ‘discovered’, i mean i planted my flag, drew her on my map, and moved right in. Ha. I like book covers too though. This is why I refuse to ever stop buying books. What is this “nook” people speak of?

  • Iris Casarez

    I sometimes do judge their covers…but must admit I am one to buy a book that ha the motion picture sticker on…though there is a logic/reason to it..well as far as im concerned…n boyfriend has now understood n is quick to point out. Which is I like reading the book before seeing the movie,because ofcourse the book is n always will be better…and then once I watch movie I ardently tell my boyfriend how the producers butchered such a great book…e.g something borrowed,i will admit watching previews I thought that book was a funny one only to be upset that it wasnt such a funny book …

  • Jessica Freiholtz-Van Vleet

    I do judge books by their covers. I have found some great books that way. Some that I would never have read. I will go to the library and pick books just by the cover. It is hit and miss, but if the cover is totally cute, I get it! Bad me, I know. I have picked some awful men that way, too. But not at the library.

  • Jocelyn Rodriguez

    Wow.I literally say this everyday.if I am not drawn in by the cover, chances are I’m not going to be reading it. :)

  • Atika Che Omar

    yessss, i think of myself as a person who wouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, i mean, i won’t judge people just by looking at them. well, i think i won’t… anyways, i found myself contradicting to this idea when i realised that hey, i really really REALLY loooveeee book covers. and yes, i DO judge books by their covers. it’s the cover that first attracts me to these books, and sometimes (most of the time more like), i buy books just because of the cover!! and yes, turns out i love the book as much as the cover! :)

    oh, and yep. hate those covers with posters from movies.

  • Presley Lynne Hoover

    Absolutely loved this! I’m a writer who hates those movie poster covers also. Seriously, loved this!

  • Rebecca Laidlaw

    I also pick some of my books based on the cover. One day I hope to do book covers as I am an aspiring Illustrator.

  • Erika Jean

    I pretty much always choose a book by its cover… at least that is what draws me to it in the first place. Then I read the back and if it interests me I read the book and THEN judge it 😉

    I do love cover art though I do!

  • Dean Harkness

    Hello! A good friend of mine sent me the link to this wonderful article and I just wanted to say, as a Book Cover Designer, it just made my morning! Love the Tees too!

  • Amy Powless

    Growing up my mother and grandma always read similar books and knew the authors. They would always buy or check out books based on authors they liked. I tried following in their ways but I noticed I would have a hard time finding a book. I would be overwhelmed by the vast number of different books to read. Once I got past the need to find an author I really liked and would stick to I began finding books that were interesting, maybe a little different, but if everyone stuck to what they liked then there would be a lot of great books gone unread. The cover art was always a great influence on me because it’s the first thing you see if it doesn’t interest you how are you suppose to like the contents of it. (P.S. sorry if this is kind of long. It’s my first post on here :) ) Oh, and great article!!! It makes me feel better about judging a book by it’s cover.

  • Rachael Berkey

    Have you seen “The City of Dreaming Books” by Walter Moers? The cover art is amazing. It completely hooked me in from across the room. I couldn’t put the book down. I went out and bought more by Moers and the cover art for all of his stuff is great.

  • Taylor Wendt

    I love this! I’m always drawn to the books at bookstores when they have the cover showing. If I don’t have a specific book in mind looking at the book spines isn’t the easiest way for me to discover what could potentially be my next great read. I’m drawn in by book covers. Also, why would I want a picture of some actors on my book when I am capable of using my imagination for the characters. My imagination is always better. I’m loving all your posts on books. A mutual love, I guess.

  • Sabrina M Roy

    I judge books by their covers all the time. Always have and you are right normally it is a good book!

  • Melissa Rae Brown

    i love that website! I have the Walden shirt and it is one of my favorites!

  • Jennifyr Falco

    I love, love, love book covers. I love when the bookstore has multiple covers to choose from. I don’t mind when it only has one, as long as that one isn’t a movie poster cover. I refuse to buy movie poster covers. Hideous. I like to imagine the characters as the author intended, not as some actor. I also have an affinity towards deckle edges. Oh how I love deckle edges. I think each book is a work of art, not only internally, but also externally. A book, when not in use, is a great decorative piece.

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