Judging Books, Not Just the Cover

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I admit to doing this all the time. How else am I supposed to choose between the thousands of titles staring at me in the library or bookstore? I can read every dust jacket but seriously, who has time for that? While doing some research, I ran across a quote from William Zinsser that touched on this topic, “Writing is visual– it catches the eye before it has the chance to catch the brain.” True that!

A lot of people ask me for book recommendations. I’m delighted by this because I love talking about books. I feel like I can get to know that person a little more by inquiring about what they’ve read before and what they most enjoy. The writer in me is also very visual. I’ll tell you what I do to select books if it’s not off some random list online. The first thing I do when browsing the bookshelves is see what titles catch my eye visually. Is the font appealing? Is it too crowded on the spine? Did they use catchy words? Are the colors pleasant? I then open the book to find out how long chapters are. If they go on for more than 7 or 8 pages, it’s most likely not going to make the cut (blame my short attention span). I read the back cover or dust jacket for a captivating synopsis. Did the book or author receive awards worth noting? Has the author published other titles I read or want to read? Does the setting take place in a part of the world (or another world) that I may find interesting to learn about? I scan the book for spacing and more visual cues. Did they choose a nice typeface? Is there sufficient spacing between chapters or any blank pages out of place? Then I pick a chapter and read the first page. If it doesn’t catch me by this point, I put it back on the shelf.

It’s not so much judging a book by it’s cover but it is judging with a lot of visual aspects in mind. Honestly, who wants to read a book they can’t bare to look at for long?

So what am I reading lately? Check out my Goodreads page for constant updates. I also serve as the Books Editor for DanaBarrett.com and discuss the latest in the book world there. If you are interested in more about typography or want to see a really well put together book on the standards of type, check out Buttrick’s Practical Typography.  It’s a beautiful (free) e-book with heaps of information.

Happy reading!

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