Do you judge a book by its cover? (Don’t we all?)

I’d like to say that book covers aren’t something I get worked up about, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I avoid movie tie-in covers as much as possible, like all normal people, and I am picky about the author’s name appearing five times larger than the book title.

Generally speaking, though, I do not begrudge publishers who slap a new cover on an old classic to draw in more, or different, readers. I just picked up this edition of Brave New World as a cool, conceptual alternative to the weird, naked baby cover. I can sympathize—even empathize—with the Roald Dahl fans who were upset by Penguin’s new cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, favoring social criticism over whimsy… but I loved the cover of their Deluxe Edition, which offers just as much contrast with the original, much beloved Quentin Blake illustrations.

On the other hand, I was totally freaked out by the Penguin Deluxe Edition of The Scarlet Letter. I have to imagine the marketing meeting went something like this:

Marketing Executive: Let’s do something cool and sexy—give a false sense of entertainment potential to the high school seniors forced to read this book.

Marketing Underling: OK, well, I thought that weird, naked baby cover of Brave New World was pretty cool. How about I cartoon-ize Hester and her illegitimate child?

Marketing Executive: Only if you use lots of red scarlet as symbolism.

Marketing Underling [sketching]: How’s this?

Marketing Executive: More eyeliner.

Marketing Underling: [sketching]: OK…

Marketing Executive: No, not on Hester, on the baby!

Book covers are probably the thing I miss most when I’m reading an e-book. (Well, that, and pretty much everything else about the look and feel of a paper book.) In any case, for my own bookshelf, I am admittedly choosy—in my own way—about book covers, and I’m guessing most readers would say the same. What’s on the inside counts, yes—but so does the packaging.

#82 The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is the title page for the first edition o...

Oh, The Scarlet Letter. Come for the adulterous affair, stay for the demon spawn.

But no, seriously, this book rules the Land of Suck. It begins with a lengthy preamble, because that’s the best way to get your audience’s attention. And you know a LOT is going to happen later because this is a story about Puritans. All kinds of fun is had for the next 200 pages, and you will in no way be traumatized by the scene at the scaffold.


Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

LOLOLOLOL. I sure hope not.

Favorite Quotes:

To the untrue man, the whole universe is false.

I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!

She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.

It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at the bottom.

Read: 2005, 2007