Have you ever bought a book you knew nothing about just because the cover was so fantastic? Did this work out? Do you have any books that you hate to read in public just because the cover art is a crime against literature?
This is inspired by Qwertyasdfg’s thread about worst classic books. Magdalene mentioned Look Homeward, Angel, which is sadly also on my list of books I hate.
But I don’t want to hate it. I picked up a library bound copy at a used booksale, because the cover was so excellent. It’s a vintage, sepia-toned photograph of a battered marble angel in a graveyard, overgrown with vines and moss. It makes the statue on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil look like something from Ikea. It’s so beautiful that I want to love this book, but sadly the book just doesn’t live up to the cover. Every time I weed my bookshelves, I put this in the pile for the Good Will, but I inevitably put it back because I can’t bear to part with it.
I wouldn’t start the Gormenghast Trilogy until I’d found the second book. That took more than 7 years because, you see, I had to have all 3 books with cover art by the same artist. (I am not obsessive!)
I have bought books and thrown away the dust covers because I hated the artwork. (My hardbound Julian May books are the best example.) In two instances, I went to the extreme of tearing off the cover of a paperback because I just couldn’t stand having the ugly thing in my bookcase.
Recently, I purchased The Concubine’s Tattoo, mostly because the story seemed interesting but partly because I liked the cover. Big mistake! That’s the first book I’ve actually tossed out without even finishing the story. I can’t think of any others that I bought for the cover art and wound up with a terrible story. Maybe I’m just blocking the trauma. Or perhaps I’m rather more ruthless than you. I won’t keep a book I despise, no matter how attractive the cover art. I’d just remove the cover and put it in a scrapbook and toss the book.
I bought my first A. Merritt book based soley on the cover art. Same for my first H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, and Jessica Salmonson. Hmmm… I’m sure if I did an inventory I’d have more examples of books-I-bought-because-they-were-beautiful but I’m too lazy.
Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin”. I just love, love, love the cover of this book - it looks just like a vintage perfume advertisement. Haven’t gotten around to reading it though because I’m saving it for a rainy day.
I bought the following for their covers. I knew nothing then about the authors or the titles when I first picked them up.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
Possession - A.S Byatt
Griffin and Sabine - Nick Bantock
Between Angels - Stephen Dunn
And they turned out to be some of my favourites. I love the way things fit.
I got Sugar Rain by Paul Park because of the cover. I’m a total sucker for cheesy sixties-era psychedelic covers. It wasn’t bad. I’m keeping my eye out for other books from the Starbridge Chronicles.
I also read Vinge’s Snow Queen and Summer Queen soley because the covers were utterly fascinating. Oh, and Robots of Dawn, too. All the books were fair-to-good, but Michael Whelan is a freakin’ genius.
I got a horror novel called Daemonic because of its weird Escheresque cover art.
It was crap.
I also got driven loopy while trying to tell a friend that she should read Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. She wouldn’t, because the cover of my edition showed Jesus in the arms of Mary, which meant to her that it was a Catholic book, and therefore 100% not for her.
Drove me mad. She wouldn’t consider the Narnia books either, because she’d heard there was a witch in them. Two of the greatest Christian works of all time, and she misses out because she makes quick judgements.
The new cover of A Clockwork Orange is pretty funky. The bottom half is black and the top half has orange flames and a drawing of a man’s screaming mouth.
Whenever I’m just browsing around the fantasy section, looking for something new, I’m always looking at the quality of the cover art. Just something that I do. Most of my books I’ve read because the cover art caught my eye.
Seemingly the most prolific book illustrator in the Del Rey stable, for many years, was Darrell K. Sweet.
He’s technically proficient, I guess, but I think he’s awful. For fantasy books he makes completely wrong choices about how things should look, and there’s no life to his illustrations: they just lie there. Compare Michael Whelan’s cover for The Source of Magic to any Xanth covers done by Sweet: you’ll see the difference, and I think you’ll agree the comparison isn’t favorable to Sweet.
Now, with that removed from my craw: I bought the first Dinotopia book largely because of the cover art.
I picked up House of Leaves based solely on the cover art and a quick perusal of the design of the text- I was fascinated. And it was a large trade paperback, I have never seen the hardback version. It turned out to be a very confusing and creepy read. At times it was the scariest thing I’ve ever read- and books don’t usually affect me in that way. But it never tied itelf up sufficiently, I think I may have missed something big, and I will probably read it again someday just to be sure.