Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday Favorites


The things that grab you before you even read the inside flap. You can say you don't judge a book by its cover until you're blue in the face, but nobody can maintain that as truth. There's a reason publishers spend time (and money!) figuring out exactly what is going to catch the eye of the casual bookstore browser. Here are some of my favorites. I'll admit, this is skewed toward books I've read more recently because I can remember them better.

1) Stay With Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr. The things that catch my attention the most are simple covers, and this one really does the trick. Plus, the title is gorgeous. You just want to read it. (And you should. This book didn't disappoint on the stuff inside either!) 

2) Before I Die by Jenny Downham. Cover is black and white with semi-headless girl, so it's not super exciting, but the title stood out. Again, this book is wonderfully evocative, about the bucket list of a teenage girl with leukemia, but her list is not what you might expect. The story is uplifting and sad at the same time, and it had resonance.

3) The Ever After by Amy Huntley. The title looks like a photographic negative with orchids, but I liked the title. I haven't read it. It's about the afterlife, but the title evokes the idea of what happens post- happily ever after. The book, I suppose, was successful, because I did pick it up and read the inside at the bookstore, although I didn't buy it.

4) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I adore the cover and the title. The whole effect is really beautiful, regardless of what I actually thought about the story (it wasn't my cup of tea, although I didn't hate it).

Other titles I liked:

Gossamer by Lois Lowry
The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeifer
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry

Yes, I think we can all agree that titles and covers are important. But you know what's more important? The content. Two anecdotes to remember and take away from this post:

I received the first Harry Potter book as a gift from my mother's friend, and I didn't read it for two years because the title and cover were hideously boring. The inside flap sucked too. I finally read it when my mother's friend was coming for a visit, and I figured I couldn't BS my way out of a conversation it ever came up (this was before Wikipedia was available and before I knew how to use the Internet). I think we all know what happened from there. For the record, the Harry Potter series is awesome, and even if I didn't think so, the rest of the world does.

Secondly, it took Twilight one month after publication to reach #5 on the NYT Bestsellers list. Sol Stein's book On Writing, which came out before the Twilight series did, says explicitly in one of the chapters that titles are important because they grab attention. Do you know what example he used as a bad title? He drew on a random word that he claimed was not flashy enough: Twilight. He said, and I remember, that the title Twilight would be bland and nobody would pick it up and it would never sell.

Ain't it funny how things work out?


  1. Very interesting post. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and how we say we don't judge books by their covers, but I know I do. Heck, I judge a book by its title and its spine half the time, because that's all I can see. From there I go to the cover, and only then do I go to the back or inside flap.

    A book's cover/title has got to grab your attention; the content has to keep it.

    Great post! :)

  2. Love this post! I may have to do one like it because I have one of the ultimate bought-a-book-for-its-cover stories. Plus, I do love myself a good book design (and I've got an anecdote for that too).

    I have a similar Harry Potter experience! I was totally not interested and the jacket design, while cute, was, well, cute. I was like, this looks like it might be really juvenile... But I had to read it for an after school program, which is why I ever bought it in the first place. Turned out to be one of the best forced book purchases EVER.

    As for Twilight, even if the word as a title is kinda cheesy in terms of "ooh drama, mystery!" connotations and/or bland, the Twilight books do have arresting, simplistic but iconic covers. Say what you want about the content, but the books are quite beautiful (except for the 4th one; that cover was sort of a let down).

  3. You chose some very eye-catching covers. The ones that grab me are the historicals with a woman in period dress. I know I'll get a great romance when I pick one up!

  4. I had no idea it became a best seller so fast. Thanks for the post! Great info.