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In every bookstore across America, people are faced with the tough question of what book should be bought. There are millions of books resting on shelves everywhere but what makes a reader pick up a novel to buy and read? Looking at book covers people can get ideas about what type of book is in their hands. Most books grab their audience by the way that they look on the outside. Many different authors and publishers choose famous works of art or use book reviewer’s comments to grab a specific audience for their book. When children are looking for books, they choose a book because of what is on the cover. Parents can view the cover as appropriate for their child. It is the cover that initially grabs the attention. Even as children grow up and begin reading books with few to no pictures, it is still the cover that says what kind of book it is.
When I was in the library, I found a book about the history of book jackets. Although most of the information in the small book was unnecessary, I did learn some of the history behind book jackets. Although the people of today look at book covers to get some idea of the contents of the book, back in the eighteen hundreds books had jackets so that the pages would not get dusty or dirty. Some books had covers made of leather but usually these were books, like the Bible, that needed protection. The bookseller put the jacket on before it was placed on the shelf. These dust jackets had no title or writing on them until the middle of the eighteen hundreds. It was not until almost nineteen hundred that authors or publishers designed book covers with illustrations or with the title. This is different from today because most authors give their book’s cover as their trade marks so they can be easily recognized. Usually the artist draws the cover to the author’s liking. The artist takes the words and changes them to an image suitable for the book.
Catcher In The Rye, is a classic example of a book that has its cover as its trademark. The cover of the book is unique with its red background and yellow writing. Both the front and the back of the book are the same with no other writing but the title and the author’s name.
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Another classic that has a cover that is distinct is The Great Gatsby. This cover has been studied by many critiques as to what it is trying to portray. Fitzgerald chose the cover before he had even finished the story. He claimed that the art was written into the work. The sad eyes and the lips form a triangle drawing the reader’s eyes to the cover. In one of my English classes, we discussed the eyes as belonging to Daisy. Nick described Daisy’s eyes as being sad, lovely, and bright. Anyone who has read the book knows that Daisy is a depressed, lonely woman. The eyes are not only sad but have a green tear falling from them. Within the eyes are also naked women. Although I have no explanation of who these women are, it could be the jealousy that Tom’s affairs create in Daisy. Although Daisy is beautiful, Tom goes out with other women. Daisy is holding the nakedness of the women in her eyes. Eyes are talked about a couple of times throughout the book. Not only are Daisy’s eyes described but so are the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg, the eyes which look at the world through glasses but without a face. The eyes are looking over the bright lights of a carnivalistic New York City skyline. Bright lights are another trait of the book. They are especially associated with Gatsby’s house and parties. The carnival of New York City at the bottom of the cover may be Daisy’s eyes looking at the craziness and brightness that went on at Gatsby’s house every weekend of the summer. This book cover draws together many images from the book unlike that of Catcher In The Rye.
I chose the Kurt Vonnegut novel because of its interesting cover. I looked up the word surreal in the dictionary and found it to mean- to have intense irrationality of a dream. Surrealism is the practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film or theater by means of unnatural juxtapositions and combinations. Since I have read the stories within this book, I know how crazy and imaginative Vonnegut’s work is. His stories are definitely surreal. Of each of the three stories in the book, the reader needs to use their imagination to enjoy the story. The picture, like Vonnegut’s work, is also surreal. The man without a face is like a dream. The man has clear skies around him yet a storm in his face. He also holds an umbrella and a hat in his hand showing that there is rain but the rain is only in his face not around him. The book jacket, although not describing any of what the stories are about, does have the same dreamlike quality as Vonnegut’s writing. Because Vonnegut’s stories are for the imagination, it was good to pick a cover that was surreal.
I chose John Irving’s books to show that he has a distinct book jacket. All of his paperback novels have the same style jacket. Besides the color of the titles, the jackets would be the same. All of the writing, except for the title, is written in black. The author’s name and the titles are what stick out of the book. Both of the books have an example of another book by Irving as well as having a review by respectable reviewers on the bottom of the cover. Many authors have their own distinct style, like Irving does. It is easy for people to know what his books are because of the way they look. Like Salinger’s book, they are relatively plain covers yet they are different because all of Irving’s covers are the same. When looking for a book by Irving, their uniqueness of Irving’s style stands out attracting the reader. People that like reading Irving will know his books and will be able to tell them out from other books.
I chose Chicken Soup For The Soul, because like John Irving, each book in the series is the same style. The only difference from each compilation of stories is that the color on the binding is different. By letting the reader know that it has been on the best seller list, the reader knows that many others have read this book. The comment by Robin Leach and the list of authors that the book has also lets the reader know that it is not only read and written by average Americans but by famous people. Out of all of the book covers I have chosen, this one aims more for the general public because it has things on the cover that draws any type of reader to it.
The cover of Sense and Sensibility, is changed form one publishing house to the next. I chose this cover because it is an example of using artwork as a cover. It implies that the women on the cover are Eleanor and Marianne, the main characters. On the back of the novel, the title of the painting lets the reader know otherwise. It is titled “Sarah Coleridge with Mary Edith Wharton.” The portrait is from the same time period so that the women could be the ones that the story is about although it is not. Many people like that the characters appear in the cover. The cover of romance novels, like that of The Mysterious Heir, appeal to people because then they get a sense of what the characters look like. We discussed romance novels in class, so we know that the people on the cover are models. Because the man and woman are attractive people and are looking at each other seductively many women buy these novels for the exciting, romantic qualities. Because the characters are depicted on the cover of the novel, people may purchase these novels because of the characteristics of the people on the cover. The way that the people look on the cover can grab the reader’s eye. Although, Sense and Sensibility, is from over a hundred and fifty years ago, because it has the portrait of two beautiful women who appear to be the main characters, it will catch people’s eye like that of a romance novel.
The artist draws the cover to the author’s liking according to the book. Many authors’s have similar book covers because they want their books to be easily recognizable. Other authors have images or ideas drawn out of their book so that the cover leads into the story. Although many people see the book cover before they have read the story, many covers are not influential; an example is Catcher in The Rye. Books that are aiming for a popular audience, like Chicken Soup For The Soul display their assets on the cover. Many author’s have a specific book jacket design, like John Irving, so that his books will be easily recognized by his audience. The book cover may not influence a reader to buy the book but they may. People judge books by their covers because the way that it is done says something about the quality or story of the novel. We discussed the decision of the cover when we talked about Father By Blood. It can be important to the characters by the way that they appear on the cover. When looking for a book to read, I know that I look for a book to grab my attention. Unless a book has gotten a good recommendation or has a good cover, I may not ever think to pick it up when I am browsing in the bookstore.