Why I Frequently Judge a Book by its Cover

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While I’m far from what might be called a prolific reader (I’m still working my way through Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain, received as a gift (and started, I might add) at Christmas 2009 and only recently returned to. Jolly good it is, too.) I do nevertheless always like to have a book to read in bed. Sometimes it’ll be a book we actually own – possibly even a re-read (the most recent being The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher – a novel that apparently has also been a film and a stage play; amazing what you can learn from a glance down Google results without clicking on any if them…). More often than not, however it’ll be a good old library book.

Now, I don’t care how many Kindles or iPads are in circulation, I predict that collections of physical, printed books will endure, and hold a unique attraction, for some decades yet. And every so often I enjoy (at least at first) the indulgence of randomly prowling the shelves seeking inspiration for my next bedtime page-turner. (Incidentally, is it just me or is the phrase “a real page-turner” slightly ridiculous? Isn’t that the definition of every book? And in our electronic age will there be a new version – “this one’s a real scroller”? OTOH (you see, I am actually down with the kids and not boring and middle-aged after all) I can see that it has some validity for me since if I find myself not caring what happens on the next page then I no longer bother turning. Out comes the bookmark and the offending volume is relegated to the top of the chest of drawers pending return to whence it came.)

Where was I? Ah, yes – prowling the shelves in search of gripping entertainment. (Yes, I’ll admit to being fairly shallow in my book tastes – thrillers that make me want to know what happens next, or comedies that make me laugh and are worth the read regardless of the grippingness – or otherwise – of the plot. Well, maybe it’s a slightly wider spectrum than that but those two genres do tend to form the mainstay of my literary input.) And here, finally, is where we get to books, covers and judging.

For as I scan the spines, I take in title and author, obviously, but also observe font, colour and graphic style (not to mention those helpful little “genre stickers” applied by the staff – at least in my library – meaning I can instantly skip family sagas (woman holding child), historical dramas (castle) or seafaring tales (galleon), for example). The combination of title, style, images and sticker must arrest my attention in an instant to warrant a closer look. And there is a further factor. Because for bedtime reads, size matters. I am not one for sitting up reading. I must be able to comfortably hold the book whilst lying on my side. Therefore, a tome passing all other tests but in large hardback format just will not do.

It takes me ages to choose a book.

You don’t want to be waiting for me if I’m looking for a new library book. Half an hour at least. Quite honestly, even I get irritated by how long I take. That’s why I said I relish the process “at first”. But think how much worse it would be were I not judging books by the dozen by their covers.

I’m pleased to report that my current selection is proving suitably page-turnable. It’s distinctly on the comedy end rather than the thriller, and I judged it a possible candidate based on it’s quirky title and it’s large, wacky title lettering. It was only that 0.85 second book-cover-judging process which then led to an extraction, a blurb-perusal process and, finally and mercifully, selection.

I rest my case.

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