Linked: When Bad Covers Happen To Good Books

Joe Queenan on good books with bad covers:

… this prompted me to think more closely about magnificent books I had resisted reading over the years. The first to come to mind was Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” When I was in high school, the assigned version of Miller’s seminal play had a grim, depressing, green-and-brown cover depicting a stubby, doomed man with his back to the viewer, clutching two suitcases filled with merchandise for which no buyer could possibly be found. I was living in a subpar neighborhood at the time, and my dad was out of work, so it never seemed like that play was going to be as uplifting as “The Black Arrow.” So I never read it.

To be honest, though, I’ve read my fair share of good books with horrible covers, and I’ve rarely had a problem. Case in point: all seven of the Harry Potter books.

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  • Clare K. R. Miller

    I knew I liked you, Eli ;) I’ve never been a fan of Mary GrandPre’s art.

    Good argument for hiring someone to design a cover for a self-published book, though.

  • Eli James

    There really is only one way to react to that comment: =) I should note, however, that the adult editions of the Harry Potter books are all beautifully designed books. I only wished they’d come out sooner, before I started buying the children’s versions.

  • srsuleski

    Out of the many different incarnations of Harry Potter coverart I’ve seen, Mary GrandPre’s are the only ones I find remotely palatable. But then, the last time I looked around the net for variations was when Deathly Hallows came out. Are there new editions since then?

    I’m not sure I buy that guy’s argument. Yes, covers do have a lot of impact on whether or not I pick up a book when I’m browsing the shelves, and if I’m buying the book I want something with coverart that I like, but the idea of trying to read a book and not being able to get through it due to the coverart is… odd.

  • Eli James

    Well, the adult editions for Harry Potter are pretty good …

    As for the guy’s argument – I agree. I might not buy a book due to movie-based cover art, but to have a reading experience spoilt by one … now that’s a quirk I won’t like to have.

  • Andrea Harris

    If you read science fiction and fantasy in the 70s and 80s, you soon learned to open the book as quickly as possible so as to not have to see the hideous, horrible, blinding covers.