Ah, book covers! This, with little exaggeration, is one of my favorite literary topics. In addition, it is also a topic that is rarely conversed about or studied. Growing up, from ages nine to twenty-one, so roughly eleven or twelve years, I volunteered weekly at my town’s public library. This became a vital portion of my advancement in literary knowledge and exposure. I learned a lot about the interworking’s of libraries; their alphabetical and numerical cataloguing systems, how to put a protective plastic jacket over the paper jacket of a hard cover, and how to arrange festive displays on large board, depending on the season or holiday. But when I wasn’t being trained, I had the time to wander about on my own and observe my surroundings with the pervading sense of curiosity that has beleaguered me since birth.
I saw, wondered, and contemplated about the books that surrounded me. Shelf after shelf, bindings out to greet the perusing reader, none looking exactly alike, all flaunting their fonts and colors like so many male critters trying to attract a mate. Naturally, I would choose to take down and look at the books whose bindings had quirked my interest the most. The binding is the precursor to the actual book cover. Like the opening act before the legitimate, established, and high selling rock stars take the stage. They are constructed to entice unsuspecting eyes, to draw you in, give you a taste before you allow your hand to hover closer to remove and inspect the book itself. How can you not adore book bindings? They are given so little credit, and I suspect they always will. No one congratulates the sleeve of a cashmere cardigan for seducing a shopper into looking at the whole garment. Poor book bindings. Let this post be a mark in history where the credit you are due was given.
And once the binding had hypnotized me into pulling the entire book off the shelf, I was always met with the cover. Though it is little discussed, it can be easily agreed upon that book covers provide a psychological catalyst between the reader and the pages. Depending on the content, topic, themes, setting, direction, style, and intent of the story in the book, the cover can respond a number of ways. It can keep most everything a mystery, thereby not exploiting the plot and keeping its integrity intact, such as with Catcher in the Rye; or all that’s needed to draw in a reader is the title or the name of the author, such with every Tom Clancy novel ever sold. Book covers that have little to offer beyond the title, author’s name, and perhaps a small image pertaining to certain events in the story have both advantages and disadvantages. If you are careful and wise, it can evoke an irresistible sense of curiosity. Or, it can turn a person off to the possibility of reading it.
On the other hand, book covers that convey different elements, or even scenes, that a part of the story can often ignite the imagination of whoever is looking at them. However, this can often be tricky. There is the now very popular, and cheaper, act of using actual photos for the cover. It is very modern, and it doesn’t particularly sit well with me personally. Mostly, because I believe the cover should reflect the art of the writing itself. It’s all art. It can be contemporary painting, or sparse drawing, or vivid and lush illustration, but I love it when a book cover is art itself.
During my countless hours at my library, I slowly began to assess what covers made want to read the actual book and which ones didn’t. Covers are so much more than mere eye-catching advertising. It is the first step in developing a relationship between the book and the reader. Shreds of communication and understanding are shared when the reader scans the cover for the first time. Therefore, it should represent the story and style as well as it can. Many stories are timeless, but might never be read unless the cover entices the reader to turn to the first page.
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Genre - Young Adult Fiction
Rating – PG
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.