Judging a Book By Its Cover

Posted 18 September, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 21 Comments





One of the most ubiquitous rules of reading is Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover.

Raise your hand if you don’t abide by this rule. It’s ok–it’s one that I continually break as well.

As I very rarely read jacket covers or the back of a book before I start it, when I’m browsing books at the store the only thing I have to go on is the cover and perhaps word of mouth.

There are certain genres that I tend to stay away from, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized why…it’s because the covers generally have pictures of real people. And then the light went off…I do NOT want to see people on a book cover. I will always give preference to something that is nondescript or vague. Although, caricatured pictures or artistic pictures are OK–it’s the ones that show an actual person that turn me off.

These are books I’ve ignored (even though I own more than half of them) because of the pictures on the covers:

Books with People on the Cover


The genres where I see this the most? Romance! Besides the fact that I’m not a fan of “happily ever after,” it’s the covers that always push me away from these books. Even the ones with the cowboys (what can I say, I am Texan…). Movie tie-in books are just as appalling to me and I think it has more to do with there being actual people on the cover than anything else.See also Paranormal. Celebrity memoirs seem to be the exception to this rule.

More NOPE:



WHY don’t I like people on covers??

I don’t know why I don’t like seeing people on a book cover. Idiosyncratic Trish? Though I suspect I prefer nondescript covers so that I can imagine characters on my own terms. I don’t want to be forced an image of a character while I’m reading the book. You know that feeling you have when you are reading a book and you see the actors who will play the roles in an upcoming movie and they feel completely wrong?  I’m sure you can offer up some great alternative reasons in the comments!

I’m trying to overcome this judgement of mine. Of course ebooks help because you’re not continually reminded of the cover everytime you see the book, but I admit that I pass up books over and over because I don’t like the cover. I recently forced myself to read The Madonnas of Leningrad. Even though the cover features a painting-like quality of picture, I kept passing up that face for other things. It’s ridiculous, I know.

Do you judge books by their covers? What turns you off of a book? And how do you feel about seeing real people on book covers?




Books Recently Finished: The only book I’ve finished recently is Unlatched by Jennifer Grayson–the tagline is “the evolution of breastfeeding and the making of a controversy). My feelings on the book are fairly complicated and I had a sort of love/hate relationship as I was reading. Chapter titles such as “What Would Jesus Drink?” made me roll my eyes but there was also interesting information about the roll that formula has played in breastfeeding over the past half century.

New Books in the House: I have a big stack of books out from the library, but I did get a copy of Budget Bytes from Avery Publishing.

New Books on my E-Reader: I couldn’t resist The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi when it came up on Daily Deal. I also picked up a copy of Germinal by Emile Zola (ebook and audio) for a readalong with Care, Melissa, and others.

Books on the Nightstand: I’m about halfway through What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty for a book club date that has already passed. I hate people like me. I’m really enjoying the book a lot but I underestimated how long the book was. Since that’s a paper book, I started Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey on my phone. It’s really annoying but I’m hoping to glean some helpful information from the book. And Germinal on audio. I should be reading that on my phone/ereader as well but haven’t gotten there yet. TMM is a little more brainless. ;)

What’s going on in your bookish world today? Reading anything noteworthy?


21 Responses to “Judging a Book By Its Cover”

  1. Jenny

    I loved What Alice Forgot. It is a longer one though. I judge books by their covers all the time but I’m not sure I care if there is people on it. Though I hate movie covers on books.
    Do you not like where there’s a person with their back turned on the cover?

  2. I don’t like shirtless men on covers although I’m a fan in real life. I think I’m too much of snob, especially if I’m reading a pretty clean romance where no one gets shirtless on the page.
    I like Dave Ramsay’s money advice. We follow it and it seems to be working well.

  3. Romance covers drive me crazy and I could never really pinpoint why…maybe the people?! I feel like people on the cover screams romance or historical fiction….and movie tie-in now that you mention it!

    But, I don’t usually choose a book based on its cover…for me it’s word of mouth (or blog) and the publisher synopsis.

  4. Anything that looks vaguely like a romance will turn me away, so it’s a wonder that I read my copy of Suite Francaise a couple of years ago. I have NO idea, none, why they chose the cover they did, other than to convey the WWII time setting. There’s no one and no situation in the book to match the cover. Go ahead and read it – it’s sublime.

  5. I am not sure if I really judge books by covers… I mean, I appreciate a nice cover, but a lot of my reading is based around other opinions and things so I buy based on that and not the cover. I never really thought about the people on the cover thing because fantasy and graphic novels almost always have people on the cover. Maybe because I read a lot of graphic novels, I just don’t think about it any more.

  6. I have a friend who is a SF author, and she’s had some awful cover art put on her books by publishers. Did you know the author used to have no say, and still has very little, about what goes on the cover? So I never pay attention to covers.

  7. I usually judge books by their covers, but it works the opposite way for me. I tend to buy books with beautiful covers without any knowledge of the content or reader opinion and I’ve been burned on more than one occasion. I can’t say that I stay away from books based specifically on an type of cover, but if it’s boring with no artwork other than the title/author info, I would probably pass right over it.

    I read What Alice Forgot a couple of years ago and loved it! I always enjoy books that deal with memory loss (Turn of Mind; Still Alice; Before I Go to Sleep). I had hoped to read more by Moriarty, but so far I’ve only read The Husband’s Secret, which I thought was good, but not great.

    I’m currently reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (very good) and listening to The Boys in the Boat (Daniel Brown). I think I’m in the minority for The Boys in the Boat…

  8. Diane

    Im definitely “cover crazy” but, you are missing a wonderful book if you don’t get past the cover to read A Little Life. Once your read the book, you will understand how appropriate that cover is!

  9. I totally judge a book by it’s cover. I’m not entirely opposed to people on the covers but lovey couples and hunky dudes turn me off. Maybe because that tells me the kind of book it will be and I’m not a fan of that type already?

  10. I am definitely a cover snob, but it really doesn’t matter what the cover has on it, either I’m drawn to it or not. One of the book you listed is one I haven’t read even though I know many bloggers have raved about it, is A Little Life. The photo of the man on the cover turns me off. His squinty eyes, pouty face, and fingers that look like they’re twelve inches long doesn’t appeal to me at all. What else do I pass quickly over because of their covers? Romance novels, most historical fiction, sci-fi to name a few.

  11. I am NOT a fan of actual people photos on book covers. I’d read such a book if a trusted reader recommends it or if I like the blurbs or buzz I’ve encountered. Many years ago, Anna Quindlen’s One True Thing was one of my favorite books. I lent my copy to a good friend. She lost it, but knew it was special to me, and bought me a copy, which was so nice of her … except that it was the Renee Zellweger movie tie-in copy.

  12. Yep – right there with you on the movie tie in covers. Hate them. Will go out of my way to find a copy that has a different cover. I hate to have a person’s face interfere with my brain’s interpretation of what characters look like. I never thought about it but I think I also avoid other books with real faces on the covers.

  13. I do judge books by their covers, but real people don’t bother me unless the cover is poorly done. I want a cover with good design elements. It needs to be eye-catching and pleasing to look at. I hate the old cheesy sci fi/fantasy covers the most. I’m glad those are not being done anymore, for the most part.

  14. Wait. No one has commented on the Stephen King appearance on the Misery’s Return cover? Come on!!!! That one is priceless!

    I know what you mean, but I also just ignore the picture of the real life person. Just because they are on the cover does not mean that I have to picture the characters looking like that.

    The type of cover I refuse to ever purchase or read are traditional bodice rippers or the ones with all of the naked man boobs. I like nice abs and great pecs, but I don’t want them on my book covers.

    • LOL!! I felt a bit bad including book covers I would NOT read so included Uncle Stevie. Glad you caught it. ;) And agreed. Even as I was googling images for the post Elle came up behind me and I felt I was doing something so wrong. Ha! Can’t imagine the conversation we’d have if I kept a book like that on my bedside table. ?

  15. Now I’ll always think of the people on the cover before buying a book! hahaha…. I don’t think I cared about that before.

  16. I’m another one who judges books by their cover. I just don’t like people on my book cover. Nope, won’t read them. In addition to coloring my image of the person (if the person’s race is not mentioned, please allow me to interpret the character however I want to!), it also just feels lazy putting people on the cover. I mean, what does the person have to do with the book (assuming it’s not a memoir/biography, of course). The book is usually more about something else in addition to being about people – a theme, an idea, a relationship, an action, a reaction, etc. It would be nicer to see something related to the book’s theme on the cover instead.

  17. I think for me it’s more about being drawn to certain covers. If it’s a picture I like I will pick up the book. That’s how sometimes I end up finding my next book to read :)

    Now if it’s a movie/book tie-in cover then I really prefer to find the book without the movie cover.

  18. I think I draw the line at silhouettes. They’re okay, full-on people aren’t. They sometimes get it wrong (too tall, too slim, whatever) but it’s easier to just ignore that than it is when there’s a face on the cover. Pecs and abs are out. I also dislike when an author draws their own cover (hire an actual artist, people!) or when the cover has a bad font. The font actually matters a lot to me. I want to look at it on my shelf and feel like even the thin strip of words on the spine is beautiful.

  19. I tend to judge books by their covers as well and have a virtual friend who’s self-published who talks about the fads of book covers and the analysis that sometimes goes into them.

    I cringe at all of the half-naked men with six-packs on romance novels I must admit. But yes, having a person on the cover – if they’re someone who doesn’t look like you envisage the character to be, or if they don’t resonate – can be a bad thing!