Ever since I was a small child it has been drilled into me that you must never judge anything on appearance alone; places, people and most importantly of all – books. No matter what picture happens to be on the front or what title is written down the spine – you must never judge a book by its cover.
However, as much as this phrase had been force fed to me over the years, I still haven’t quite absorbed it. As I walk through Waterstones on a lazy Sunday afternoon my eyes fly restlessly around the room, searching for a place to land. I skim over the dull looking books sporting grey or black dust jackets, barely giving them a second glance before I move on. I finally settle on a bright red book decorated with white sparrows that stands in a crowd of navy and dark purple – ‘Ketchup Clouds’ by Annabel Pitcher. I read the blurb with a smile; it is exactly the kind of book I want to buy. I am guilty, but I enjoy it immensely.
This is almost always my tactic when book shopping and it has not failed me yet. Unless a friend has particularly recommended something, I will not pick up a book that doesn’t catch my eye. I have betrayed the golden rule of reading. But I am not sorry. When you think about it, there is no other way to shop for books. When in a bookshop you are faced with the mammoth task of deciding which book you will buy out of the hundreds in the room. Yes, you could pick each book up and read them one by one until you find the few that you like, but that could take hours for only one section of the shop.
You can’t pick up everything, so how do you decide what to focus your attention on without looking at the cover of the book? You don’t. The most efficient way to find something you like is to search for the colours you like. We pick up the bright ones because they are the ones with the most obvious advertising. And as much as you may not want to hear it – the system works.
I have found, during my many Waterstones adventures, that the authors of the kind of books I fall in love with are also the authors who print books with bright, eye-catching covers. Now, this may just as easily be because the books I tend to buy are the ones with colourful covers. All I know is that my favourite bookshelf is a violently beautiful mess of reds and oranges and blues.
However, despite my tendency towards book cover racism, I still remain open to just about everything. Though when buying books I’m more likely to pick up the books with a spine of neon yellow, this is because they are the most obvious. I still remain opinion-less about all books until I have read them – I just get a little bit more excited for the pretty ones. I firmly believe that the colour of the cover does not affect the quality of the content inside.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being charmed by illustration or vibrancy. We as humans are practically programmed to enjoy pretty things from the get-go. That does not exclude books. So what if I would prefer to buy the bright blue copy of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ as opposed to the movie edition?! That doesn’t mean that my enjoyment of the story differs between the two styles. All it means is that I might just quite enjoy the colour blue. Is that really so bad?
I know this is not a popular opinion. I understand why we must never use this theory on people, but why not judge books by their covers? We all have preferences and interests. Even the most self-righteous readers are prone to ‘accidentally’ forgetting to consider the beige book in the top corner of the shelf. We all do it without even thinking. Really, we’re all a little bit book-cover-racist. And I say that that is okay.