Let’s be real. You’re in Blackwells looking for a book to read if you’re cool, and buying a mug with a world map on it if you’re not. You wouldn’t sit there and flip through the pages absorbing the information in the book to then decide whether or not you should spend 8 pounds on it after you have practically fully read it. If you do that, you’re a sociopath. Therefore, the ability to judge a book by its cover is a skill that is essential for any reader’s repertoire.
The first thing that would catch any normally functioning human’s eye, would be colour. Yeah, pretty books make for great coffee table decorations, but no, you must not be lured by that. Resist the temptation. What you are allowed to judge a book by, though, is the name. Usually. Well written books tend to have interesting names. Maybe some alliteration thrown in there, some banter with words, something not cheesy please, or just something classic or comforting or beautiful. A few examples of the following are, ‘The Elements of Eloquence’ (great relevance for the book’s content too), ‘The Enchanted April’ (doesn’t that just sound like a beautiful read?!) or ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ (What are crawdads? And why do I care about where they sing?). But this doesn’t always work. For example, ‘Pineapple street’. I thought it was a cute name, but it’s a shit book. I guess I was at fault because the cover was orange, my bad.
The next thing I’d consider would be the author. Have I heard their name before and in what context? Did someone cringe at their name or was there reverence and brimming excitement. Was it booktok or a Guardian recommendation? I mean you do you, but I’d totally judge. Some classics like Agatha Christie, Virginia Woolf and George Orwell are just timeless and you could blindly pick those up and know they won’t be bad. A risk pays off sometimes though, but if you wanna play safe, the older ones that are still sticking around bookstores are usually pretty good.
Lastly, the vibes. Did you see it in a section that is surrounded by similarly good books? Is it close to other books that you have read and liked in the past? Does the blurb sound unique and make you feel something? Does it make you wish that there was more? If the synopsis feels too long you’re not getting through 5 pages of that book. Skim through the first page of the author’s introduction if they have one(trust me). Is that engaging? If yes, that book will change your life.
Out of a compulsion to not discriminate against any books, I would like to state that all books offer a special insight into the writer’s perspective on life. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a couple of basic rules: if the book has been adapted into a young adult movie, it goes down by 5 points. If it has pictures of real people instead of graphics, minus 3. If the reviews on the book say ‘deliciously fun’, ‘poignant’ or any stupid word you could use to describe your chicken, minus 10. If it talks about taking you on a journey, run the other way. Now that you’re fully equipped with the skills to judge a book by its cover, I wish you all the best with wise spending and enjoyable experiences for the rest of your life’s journey.