You Can’t Go Out Like That! (Fashion For Books)

You Can’t Go Out Like That! (Fashion For Books)

The Teens Can Write Too! prompt this month is “Let’s face it; we all judge books by their covers. What kind of covers grab you? Why? Be sure to use examples of your favorite book covers.” I managed to get myself early on in the schedule, before I forget, but just in case I’m going to write this a day early and save it. Better to be safe than sorry. You never know what might happen to the internet tomorrow.

I’m not going to deny that covers influence my decision on whether or not to read a book, but actually, to be entirely truthful, it’s not usually covers that initially attract me to books – it’s titles.

Because I spend a lot of time in libraries, I look at the spine of most books before I see the covers. If something has a great title, I’ll be likely to pick it up and look at the blurb. Whereas if I’m looking at books for my Kindle, I’ll be on Amazon, so I’ll see the cover first… just one of the ways in which my e-book reading habits are different to my print book reading habits.

However, a cover can often have the opposite effect – it can often put me off. For example, there is a book I have seen in the Teens section of my library recently called ‘You Against Me’. Now, my first thought when I read that title is conflict, fights, perhaps best friends turning and attacking each other, or family feuds. And yet the cover is this:

I have no idea what this book is about, but it looks to my like it’s going to have a strong element of romance and/or sex, therefore I’m instantly put off, because that doesn’t interest me. The title and the cover conjured different images in my mind.

On the other hand, some covers are helpful.

When I was in Foyles a couple of years ago (a large bookshop in London, for Americans or other aliens) I saw a book called Lament. I was at the time obsessed with all things Irish, including Lord of the Dance, and a piece of music on the soundtrack that I really liked was called ‘Lament’. Even so, I would have passed it by if it weren’t for the fact that it had a four-leaved clover/shamrock on the spine. My mind instantly connected the dots – it was about music, and it was about something Celtic, and it probably didn’t have a happy ending, and I picked it up. The front cover was pretty minimal. It had a knife on it.

I was first attracted to this book because of the title, but if the cover hadn’t hinted to me that it’d be related to Ireland or Celtic themes, I wouldn’t have looked any further.

By the way, Maggie Stiefvater became one of my favourite authors that day. The UK edition, which was released later, isn’t half bad either. To my mind, both of them accurately sum up the essence and the mood of the book. One is black, which suggests morbidity; the other is red and has trailing black spatters, which somehow hint at death in the same way. The dove and the clovers (which are actually shamrocks) make it seem otherworldy. The knife and the cage both represent the character Luke – danger and imprisonment.

I don’t know whether I’d have picked it up with the UK cover for the reasons I picked up the US edition I own, but I really like it. (All Maggie’s covers are pretty nice, to be honest. Check out the UK edition of The Scorpio Races)

Then there are books which have multiple covers. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, for example. The edition of this I first read was black, with a dragon (to my knowledge, designed by Tolkien, though I could be wrong), in red. In fact, it looked like this:

It was a hardback, large print edition because that was the only one that the library had. I was desperate to read it and would have taken it whatever cover it had.

Later, I read it again, from a different library. And it had this cover:

It’s a sign of how many different covers this book has had that it took me ages to find this particular one, but this is the one my primary school’s library owned. It shows Bilbo, half invisible, meeting the dragon Smaug. Yay.

Now, as you can see here, I was borrowing this book from the library. Why? Because our family’s copy went missing when I was very young. But on that same trip to Foyles, I bought myself a copy, and I had a choice of several covers. The one I chose was this one:

It’s beautiful. The design goes all the way around the front and back covers. It’s an illustration that LOOKS like an illustration, which I’ve always liked – not a pretend photo, if you see what I mean. I like illustration. Illustration is good. Did I mention that I like books that have illustrated covers? They’re dying out with all the stock photos being used these days, and it’s true it’s easier to make those look professional, but guys – illustration is GOOD if you can pull it off. Remember that.

Just in case you were wondering, the edition of the Lord of the Rings that I read and which my family still owns is so old that I’m searching the whole internet to try and find an image but haven’t managed it yet. I can’t take my own because our copies are (a) falling apart, which would make a photo pretty unclear, and (b) currently being read by either my mum or my dad who’ve both realised how long it was since they last read the books. I mean, it was eight years for me, but… yep, they’ve stolen them all.

… still looking for a picture …

Found one! So, we have these as a boxed set. Apparently they’re from 1974 – they were my mum’s. Anyway, I hear they’re pretty rare these days, but as our copies are, as I said, falling to pieces, they’re not going to be worth much. Nevertheless, this is the edition I know and love, and will always be my favourite (though there are some seriously classy versions out there).

I really like Tolkien covers generally. Leaving aside the runes (which are cool), they’re almost always ILLUSTRATED. Not stock photos. Not movie tie-ins. (I’ve never seen a movie tie-in LotR book. I’m assuming they exist, but I have never seen one.) They are ILLUSTRATED.

So basically, I like illustrated book covers. Anyway, I’ve rambled on for long enough and not really said anything worthwhile (my posts are always the longest on the TCWT chain, it’s bad) – here’s the rest of the chain!

(TCWT admins – next time, can you make sure the list on your blog chain page is hyperlinked? I had to go through and turn all of these into links… people are more likely to read them if they’re links! Cheers *grin*)

June 8– –hazelwrites

June 9– –A Farewell To Sanity

June 10– –This Page Intentionally Left Blank

June 11– –The Zebra Clan

June 12– –You Didn’t Really Need To Know This…

June 13– –Dragons, Unicorns, and Other Random Things

June 14– –Comfy Sweaters, Writing, and Fish

June 15– –Kirsten Writes!

June 16– –Lily’s Notes in the Margins

June 17– –Inklined

June 18– –Reality Is Imaginary

June 19– –Tangential Bemusings

June 20– –Musings From Neville’s Navel

June 21– –All I Need Is A Keyboard

June 22– –The Incessant Droning Of A Bored Writer

June 23– –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

47 thoughts on “You Can’t Go Out Like That! (Fashion For Books)

  1. Illustrated covers are amazing – though a well-done photograph will, I admit, grab me quite nicely too. I’m with you on the titles. No matter how lovely the cover art, if the book is called “Love and Passion and All things Soppy … With Vampires” I’m not going to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Same with unfamiliar musicians and albums, actually. Very name-driven, I am.

    I think we have a copy of the mountain-picture Hobbit lurking somewhere in the house … though I have no idea where it’s wound up in our multiple bookshelves, lol!

    1. This copy is very definitely mine – after we managed to lose ours ten years ago, permission must be asked to borrow mine!
      We also have quite a nice edition of the Silmarillion, though I never finished reading it. I intend to do so over the summer, after I’ve reread the Lord of the Rings.

      1. Hehe, I read the Silm. twice, as you know. I’d recomment jumping straight to the “Quenta Silmarillion” chapters the first time around – that’s where all the good stories are, if you can keep track of all the bloody characters! There’s a reason you don’t go fishing in Tolkein’s unedited drafts :P

        I think the Silm. has less variants of cover – does yours have a stained-glass-looking thingie on a black cover? That’s what mine looked like :)

          1. Yes, I’ve seen that one. It still has the runes, though, and they’re the best bit.
            (Also, just assume with any books that I’ve got a pretty old edition, and that’ll make guessing which cover I have a lot easier.)

          2. Hehe, indeed. Besides, it’s the story inside that matters for the most part. There are many books with pretty covers that I have buried in disgust … and some rather ugly ones that I love beyond belief xD

  2. Yes! The last Hobbit cover is the one I grew up with so, obviously, it has a place within my heart. In the email version of this post, the cover was (for some unknown reason)an expanded version that tried to cover the whole of my screen. It just knows of its awesomeness ;)

    1. Thanks! It can be interesting, especially when different countries have completely different covers. I like trying to work out why they thought the different covers were needed to appeal to the other audiences.

  3. Nice. Was Lament any good? It looks interesting.
    I agree with you on illustrated covers. Much more elegant that way… and I’m all about elegance. But then again, there are some covers that look like an anklebiter drew them with an Order 66 against the paper and the crayon both.
    Good post!

      1. Ah… It’s that kind of thing. I will probably not read it– unless… Do both of the subjects of this relationship die? (I know it’s a spoiler, but if you don’t say yes, I won’t read it.)

        1. It’s not that simple. Lament is kind of a book about a relationship (which doesn’t work out brilliantly). Ballad is … Different. Ballad is more a book about the aftermath of the characters’ lives getting screwed up, about fear, about making really hard decisions, and about the ability to change who you are. I wrote about it in more detail, actually, on my book blog. I think I have a link somewhere…

          1. As we have very similar tastes with other books, I’d urge you to at least consider it, but I’m aware that what appeals to a girl from a highly musical background who is obsessed with Celtic mythology may not appeal to you :)

            In my ‘review’ I wrote the following about ‘Ballad’:
            It is a book about decisions you have to make that you know will hurt someone. It’s about pasts you have to forget and futures you have to embrace. It’s about creativity and friendship and watching The Sixth Sense at three in the morning with a fairy muse with vaguely psychic vampire tendencies and it seeming relatively normal. It’s about Hamlet and omelettes and teachers and casseroles and oboe players and string ensembles.

            That is here:

          2. Of course. Already finished with Behemoth (read it all yesterday), almost finished with another book I started this morning, and still have… *counts mentally* Oh, darn, I can’t remember them all. I think I have two left, but I’m not sure.
            But that’s just in my modern literature stack. I also want to read Les Miserables, Three Musketeers and sequels, and probably more.

          3. Les Mis’ll take forever. Seriously. Victor Hugo had no idea went to stop – 100 pages on the sewers of Paris. The sewers. Seriously. Wth.

          4. Currently I’m hashing out an idea for a magical land inside a sewer system. Don’t pound them too much.
            But yes, I understand how slow Hugo is. Perhaps I’ll skip that…

          5. I read the book to know what happened to Fantine, not to get a history lesson. I guess I’m just impatient, but… I got annoyed. Really annoyed. So I skipped it.

  4. Nice post! I like illustrated covers, as well–a lot of these recent stock photo covers look the same–but some photo covers are actually quite appealing and relevant to the story. If I don’t like a book’s title, it’ll automatically make me think less of a book’s cover and/or blurb.
    Lament looks pretty good. I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard great things about her.
    (Ah, and sorry about the lack of hyperlinks in the schedule. WordPress used to put them in automatically, and being behind schedule, I got lazy. I’ll do better next time, I promise.)

    1. I prefer Lament and Ballad, and the unrelated but also Celtic-influenced ‘The Scorpio Races’, to her werewolf books, because they’re a bit kissy for me :D

  5. I think the covers we grow up with are always our favorite. I like the Lament cover with the illustrated girl on it actually, which you don’t show. I always thought it looked a lot like Maggie’s style of drawing, even if it wasn’t done by her, and it had a level of intrigue to the art on the cover.

    I also look more at the title of books then the cover, especially with the whole argument about White-Washing YA lately.

    1. I haven’t seen that cover of Lament – I’ll have to look it up. I’ve seen these two because I own the US edition but the UK edition is the one they have in shops and libraries round here (I got it when it was pretty new). The Scorpio Races is very like her style, I think. My copy is signed and she drew a horse on the inside :D

  6. Awesome post! I likd how you organized everything, and have to agree–that first cover looks like erotica. Not at all YA! Horrible misrepresentation, and I’m surprised that came from Random House. Also, I have a thing for the old-fashioned, illustrated covers, too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be blown away by the new ones. :D (And it bothers me when books change covers. Can’t they just keep it the same?)

    1. It bothers me when books that had great covers change them for no apparent reason, but sometimes if things are reprinted lots of times it’s nice to get variety – like with LotR. Then you can have different editions and be a proper nerd! :D

    1. Haha! Actually they chose very good photos for the covers… or maybe that’s just my opinion. Frodo looks adorable on Fellowship, Legolas looks *cough* hot *cough* on Two Towers, and Aragorn looks… well, OK, Aragorn looks like a mess on Return, but from the pictures I’ve seen from the movies, he always looks like that.

      *gazes happily at her LotR books which have suddenly become some of the most amazing things ever*

        1. I decided the other day that one of my characters looked like a cross between Legolas and Thor. My friend promptly fangirled.
          (Personally? Aragorn all the way. I don’t tend to go for blond guys, ehehe.)

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: