On Not Judging A Book By Its Cover

In the book business it is easy to forget the old adage our mothers told us, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." After all if people didn't judge books by there covers then Chip Kidd wouldn't have a job. (Chip Kidd is one of the most famous book cover designers and graphic artists in the book business). In the bookstore business we put out books that catch peoples attention, not only by the content but also by the cover. A bad cover can mean that a book doesn't get prominently displayed, if a book does poorly in hardcover, be sure that the cover will be reinvented in the paperback edition. I can tell you that in the bookstore business we are even a little bit stuck up when it comes to covers, because we always- ALWAYS hate the MTI (movie tie in) cover, it is always cheesy looking I promise you.

Now this little rant brings me to the point of this post, the second book post in a row which is very odd for me. I just finished (yes in one day) reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a book written by and about the 53 year old editor of french Elle, who suffers a stroke and is stuck in a locked in state. He is not in a coma and is aware of his surroundings but he is completely paralyzed, his only mode of communication with the outside world is done by blinking his left eye. And while in this state he wrote a book! This is an uplifting story about a man who refused to die, even though his body was essentially dead.. It is a very short book but it is well written and moving.

Now how does these two connect? When I picked up the book out of the biography section at my store, the only edition we had available was the MTI cover, it looked cheesy! As a matter of fact there is a young girl on the cover who I later learned really has no role in the book. I almost immediately put the book down and moved on to L's next suggestion. I am not sure what pushed me to give the book a second chance, but I flipped it over and read the back cover and I decided that it could make the first cut. The book seemed like it could be interesting, but how could a good book have such a crappy cover, then again Atonement is really good, and it has an awful MTI cover now. The book finally made it through all the cuts based on the story and not on the cover, and after finishing Kavalier and Clay I was looking for a short piece of non-fiction to read this week, and it was the one I picked up. I have to say I was a bit embarrassed reading it on the train (cheesy cover again) but I am glad that I read it. It definitely was an interesting and uplifting book.

See, mom was right, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... however, if I were to ever put this book out on a table, it would be with the regular cover not the MTI one!

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