Most people know the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” This phrase is considered an idiom, meaning a saying that means something else. Basically, you aren’t supposed to take the sentence literally; it is implicit of a different message. In this case, the phrase means: “you cannot know what something or someone is like by looking only at that person or thing’s appearance.” I feel like this is an important life message to people. But where did this oh-so-popular and impactful phrase originate?
Surprisingly, the origin of this idiom is fairly young. It is believed to have been taken from a passage of a 1944 edition of the African journal American speech, in which it was originally stated that “You can’t judge a book by its binding.” It was then used again in 1946 in the movie Murder in the Glass Room, in which was stated, “You can never tell a book by its cover.” This phrase seems to have evolved and become popular over time since then.
As a book blogger, I hear this phrase often, and with multiple opinions. In regards to people and our daily life, I think this is a great rule of thumb and an awesome message. However, if we were to take this phrase literally, as some people do, my opinion is hugely different. I almost always judge a book by its cover with little to no shame. Why? Well, I have several reasons for my book cover judginess.
1. I’m a very visual person and like things to be aesthetically pleasing.
Now this is my personal opinion, but if I don’t think a book cover looks aesthetically pleasing, I most likely won’t pick it up. I like covers to not only be pretty, but to have a personality and look unique. I don’t really love covers that have just a person on them, or have dull colors. I really love bright and lively colors, especially blue covers (I recently noticed a good portion of the books I own are blue). It is extremely difficult for me to pick up a book I visually dislike, much less buy it.
2. Covers can tell you about the genre and story (as can the title)
In my experiences, the cover and title are usually based on actual content inside the book. There are typically similar covers in the same genre, which can also help you to find the genre you prefer. For example:
- Mystery, horror or suspense novels typically have darker colors, simple or cursive text that feels sharp, and either have no image or a very simple one such as a face, dead tree, lonely road, lone figure, etc.
- Fantasy novels have a similar feel, except the covers usually feel more complex. They can have symbols, intricate designs, a warrior type figure, or some reference to nature or magic. Even the text of the titles are loopier, and more dramatic looking. Lately I’ve noticed an increase in fantasy young adult novels that feature a girl in a ball gown, or swords and shields.
- Young Adult novels seem to use brighter colors, a variety of fonts for the text, and simple but unique designs or images that relate to the story. They just feel young and lively. They can also sometimes feature things like headphones, flowers, crowns, etc. There seems to be more freedom of expression with Young Adult novels.
- Romance novels tend to use more subdued colors, and can play with a few color ranges. They typically have some sort of couple embracing, holding hands, interacting, or a lone figure posed in a more suggestive way.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. This isn’t always true for every book, but it has been accurate enough for most books I’ve read.
3. Covers are meant as a marketing tool to promote interest in the book
This is the main reason I don’t feel guilty for judging covers. They’re the first thing a potential buyer sees, and are there to help promote the book. Everyone has different visual preferences, as well as genre types they enjoy. Using a book cover to help determine whether to pick a book up isn’t a bad thing, it’s a normal process of elimination people utilize to help them find their next book fix. Authors and publishers are very much aware of this, and use this knowledge to help carefully craft the cover. It’s inspired by the story, and helps to attract their target audience. It is a useful marketing device, and one I’m more than happy to use.
I do recognize, however, that not every book can be judged by its cover, and there are times I’ve picked up books with covers I disliked, but fell head over heels for the story. In general though, judging the cover of the book has worked for me.
I’d love to hear back and have a discussion! Do you also judge a book by its cover? Do you agree or disagree with my reasons behind it? What kind of covers are you attracted to and why? Does it fall within a specific genre? Do you not care what the cover looks like? I really want to hear the opinions of my book dragon community!