Does an ugly cover keep you from picking up a book?

This is a Brazilian cover for The Shining by Stephen King. But you already knew that, right?

A friend of mine here at the Library lends me copies of magazines and journals to read, and in the January 2016 Supermarket News (yes, it’s a real magazine) there was an article about how retailers are making eye-catching displays of turnips, beets, and rutabagas, and how more people seem to be buying those vegetables.

What does this have to do with books? Well, I was thinking about rutabagas, and how they aren’t beautiful on the outside, but they taste pretty good, and have good stuff in them (vitamins, fiber)—and I started thinking about ugly outside, good inside—and it made me think about books that are good, but that get saddled with ugly (or just plain odd) cover art.

Joe Queenan wrote about it in the New York Times, and how he realized that he had a number of books he hadn’t read, and those were also books with ugly covers. He wrote, “Until now, I’d thought that I had set these books aside for so many years because they were too daunting or, in the case of Thomas Mann, too dull. Now I realized that what these books had in common was that they were ugly. Really, really ugly.” I wince when I see it happen to older books that get new covers. And while it might make for a fun, eye-catching library display to show off old books with weird covers, I don’t know if anyone would check one out.

Does an ugly cover prevent you from picking up a book?


About centerforthereader

St. Louis Central Library, Center for the Reader, is where you can find fiction, reading suggestions, author information, and much more!
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