When I go into a bookstore, I usually don’t have any idea what I’m going to buy. I’m sure this is related to the general lack of planning that goes into pretty much everything I do, but honestly, one of my favorite things about shopping for books is not knowing what I’m going to find. I have a method for choosing books; it goes like this:
1. Find books that look interesting
2. Read back cover
3. Read first two pages
If the first two pages make me want to keep reading, I buy the book. It’s a pretty simple method, and is also probably why I end up spending way too much money in bookstores, but it definitely hinges (maybe even more than it should) on the first step. Yes, I judge books by their covers. Certainly, it’s what happens inside the covers that makes me decide whether I like the book or not, but the cover itself is usually why I pick the book up in the first place.
Of course, it’s no secret that design is an art form, and book cover design is one of its most specialized genres. I’m sure publishers know that people like me are more likely to pick up (and subsequently buy) books with attractive covers, and hire designers accordingly. It’s one thing to create a good design, but something much greater to create a good design that manages to incorporate a book’s subject matter and present it in a way that will make people want to read what’s underneath the cover. The rockstar of the book design world is Chip Kidd, whose website, Good is Dead, is promoting his book of cover designs, Chip Kidd: Book One. (Some of his work is viewable here.) I didn’t even know I was a fan of his until I looked through my bookshelves and found that a cover I like a lot (that of the David Sedaris book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) was designed by him.
So, I like pretty covers anyway. Maybe this is why I’m so fascinated by this blog, Book Covers from the NY Times Book Review, which is exactly what it says it is — a blog of cover images from the books reviewed in the Times each week. I’ve definitely enjoyed picking pages at random and looking at the covers, some of which are truly wonderful. I’ve seen all kinds of books that look good enough to read. I’m also quite taken with this Flickr set of book covers by Penguin. But really, this stuff is great.
How much attention do you pay to book covers when you’re looking for something to read? Do you have any favorite covers? Are you going to go through your shelves and see how many things you own that were designed by Chip Kidd? Do tell. The internet needs to know.