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Do Judge a Book by its Cover


By Diane Parfitt

There are many ways I pick out books to read or to carry in my bookstore. I read book reviews, check out all sorts of best seller lists, and get suggestions from friends or fellow members of book clubs. A good recommendation from a friend who has similar tastes in books usually works for me. But I also peruse other bookstore’s shelves every chance I get. Some bookstores have so many books that it’s hard to zero in on the next book I want to read. So, I look for book covers that grab my attention right away. I then pick it up, read the description on the front and back of the jacket and the inside flap. If all of this continues to interest me, I will buy the book. But it’s the initial attraction of the book cover that has enticed me to take a second look and the descriptions will confirm if this is the right book for me. So, yes, go ahead and judge a book by its cover. A lot of artistic and promotional work went into designing the cover to do just that – grab your attention. Here are some covers that are attention grabbers and promise a good read that will hold your attention too.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Vander Kolk, M.D.

I could not take my eyes off this cover. Mainly because I love the image of the painting JAZZ: ICARUS by Henri Matisse. It is evocative of the fluidity of the body and how it can be changed in so many ways by trauma, but also how it can be healed. The author explores innovative treatments from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama and yoga that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity.

THE FIFTH RISK by Michael Lewis

Jenga is a game of skill using wooden blocks that are stacked on top of each other. Players take turns removing one block at a time and placing it on top of the tower creating a progressively taller and more unstable structure. The cover of THE FIFTH RISK has a Jenga Tower with an American flag painted on the front. After the last election we have heard that elections have consequences. Lewis attempts to answer the question, “What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?” When trying to change government without understanding the support structures, will it come crashing down like a Jenga tower?

THE FIELD OF BLOOD: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War by Joanne B. Freeman

You think politics are contentious now? We should hope that things don’t go back to the way they were in the years leading up to the Civil War. Freeman draws on a wide range of resources to show that Washington was beset with one episode of violence after another on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Legislative sessions were often filled with fights, canings, objects thrown at one another and all-out slugfests. Weapons were drawn when the debate reached a peak and even resulted once in the death of a representative. The stories are tragicomic, as reflected in the cover, all serving to warn us that we don’t want to go back to the ways of the past.


I have seen this book on every “best book” list – including best cover. I could not ignore it any longer, much as I found it scary. So here it is for you to decide. This is the first book in a trilogy aimed at teenage readers but still interesting to adults. The author hopes to convey the “power, beauty and blackness” of her teenage protagonist with the beautiful art by Rich Deas. As I looked more closely at the cover, I saw the beauty in the main character’s face. The author, Adeyemi, feels that, “We live in a time where men, women, and children of color are being dehumanized and oppressed and unjustly murdered.” Art and education can be a big part of changing that. The book suggests we may be able to all get along with each other if we understand that being different is just part of human nature.

THE MERMAID & MRS. HANCOCK by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Not only was I attracted to the artwork on this cover, but the title grabbed my attention too. I love the tapestry-like background as well as the beautiful scallop shell in the front. And who can resist a story about a mermaid? Jonah Hancock, a wealthy merchant in 1780s London, receives a most unusual creature, delivered to him by the master of one of his ships. He is thrust into the finest society homes as everyone wants to see his new possession. There he meets a shrewd courtesan who bedazzles him and sets them on a new course that challenges their ability to avoid the destructive powers that mermaids are said to possess.


When I saw stacks of this book on display, I was first attracted to the pattern of colors. I had absolutely no idea what the images were. But it was enough for me to pick up the book and find out more about it. That’s when I saw what the cover was displaying – an Escher-like painting. In the story, the protagonist films a 10-foot statue in Manhattan and posts her video online. She becomes an instant celebrity. The book looks at of how the internet is changing fame, rhetoric and our culture. How do we deal with fear and uncertainty and how does being in the public eye result in dehumanization, whether it is adoration or vilification?



The cover I saw was from the British edition and it had the tagline Silence Can Be Deafening which is not on the cover of the US edition. This really got my attention and I had to find out more. Below is the summary from the back cover of this book, which I cannot resist sharing with you:

“Silence can be deafening.

Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.

Now that the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.

Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.

For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…

” Quoted from the UK Edition

You don’t need to get the UK version to read this all-too-scary story of a dystopian future, but I better shut up – I’ve gone over my 100 words!

So, go ahead, judge a book by its cover, but check it out inside too. Then, you can make sure it’s just as good on the inside as it is on the outside, just like people.

Diane Parfitt owns City Center Gallery & Books on Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville