Arts

The Unexpected Rewards Of Judging A Book By Its Cover

Joshilyn Jackson encouraged listeners to judge a book solely by its cover, buy it and read it. Now she reports from her own experience grabbing a book off the shelves.
Joshilyn Jackson encouraged listeners to judge a book solely by its cover, buy it and read it. Now she reports from her own experience grabbing a book off the shelves.
Credit Helen (cropped) / flickr.com/hpitlick

Earlier in this series, best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson encouraged listeners to judge a book solely by its cover, buy it and read it. On this edition of “Writer To Reader,” Jackson reports back with her experience after picking a book based on how it looked on the bookstore shelf. What she got was unexpected.

“When done right, a book cover’s job is to set your mouth for the literary bite you’re about to experience,” Jackson explains. The book she chose had a cover that she thought represented a lighter, well-written piece of women’s fiction. What she got, was significantly heavier.

“In retrospect, I didn’t get the book I thought I was getting.” Instead, Jackson says, it was a book about two women who are lifelong friends and grew up together in a slum. Turns out, the author of “My Brilliant Friend,” Elena Ferrante, is acknowledged to be one of Italy’s greatest living novelists. Instead of a light read, Jackson says the book is about “two girls in a cut-throat, necessary friendship, living in poverty in a place where women have little agency.”

And while she enjoyed the book, it made Jackson wonder. Does the book cover come across as more of a light romance because the author is a woman? What would it look like had a man been the author?

“I think it would look different, I really do,” Jackson concludes.

Considering that a book cover is simply a form of marketing, Jackson poses the question, “What does that say about what mainstream marketing thinks about women, what we want as readers, and what mainstream readers think about women as writers?”

WABE brings you the local stories and national news that you value and trust. Please make a gift today.Donate Now