10 Books You Should Judge By Their Cover

 

Swati Parwani tries to rationalise the way lazy readers buy books.

Yes, it’s an age old saying—don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, we can’t always help being drawn to some books just because of their covers.

A lot of the books in my library have ended up there as a result of a bored mind scavenging a bookstore out of habit. It does seem a bit shameful of a practice to admit, like that of a child digging into a jar of candies and picking out the bright, red ones. It’s the unspoken truth about someone who loves books more than reading. The idea of candy, more than its sweet taste.

Photography can be many things, more than I dare to count, but it is primarily about storytelling. Perhaps that is why, photographs and more importantly, the choice of photographs on a book  take a huge accountability for its success. What’s more is that we don’t have to go a long way back in the annals of  history to trace this unison of photographs and books. This is something of a more recent, digital indulgence.

I am in no way undermining this method by calling it easy. On the contrary, I have been a witness to this kind of stunning imagery and I know I am going to carry it with me for the rest of my life.

After much contemplation, of about 10 long minutes, I have concluded there are three kinds of book covers.

The first kind is the kind of cover that manages to convey the essence of the book, giving us an idea of exactly what to expect. It’s the kind of cover that was just meant to be… we know that nothing else would have made a better fit. This is the kind that makes me trust my instinct.

Then there is the deceptive kind, leading us into a world that goes beyond the book itself.  We indulge into it and, quite often, forget the seeming ordinariness of the book. It’s the helpful cover in a symbiotic relationship with the book.

At last, there is the diabolical book cover. It’s the cover that makes up for everything the book lacks, it’s the reason why I go back to not trusting my instincts.

Evil or not, here are 10 books that I would pick, simply because of their stunning photographic book covers.

1) Time by Eva Hoffman

Time by Eva Hoffman.

Time by Eva Hoffman.

Less is more, that’s the undercurrent of this cover. Its minimalism helps it holds its stance in a much debatable concept, time. It does something that words quite often fall short of doing, it measures time in units of light and shadow.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

2) Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar.

Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

Looking at this picture, one wonders, why cobalt blue? Is it the colour, is it a state of mind or an association? After reading this book I realized something its cover had been telling me all along. I realized that everything can be yours if you want to, even a colour.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

3) Missing Men: A Memoir by Joyce Johnson

Missing Men by Joyce Johnson

Missing Men: A Memoir by Joyce Johnson

From the creases in the sheets to its use to replace a letter, everything rings of a simple candour we exhibit in our daily life. Maybe it’s the Indian in me, or the Sindhi, either way, I can’t help but think of the use of the crease to replace the missing  ‘S’ as some kind of economic frugality. Stupid I know, but to each his own.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

4) Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan

Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan

Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan

We have all done that as kids, we have all aspired to be in the spotlight. We were all born posers I believe until we hit puberty, wham. I can’t think of a single person who associates his or her teenage years with carefree happiness. “Growing up” was chaotic, especially for girls.
What’s remarkable about this cover is that it reminds us of a time we were just like that little girl but we can’t be in the same shoes as hers. It faintly reminds us of the time we stopped being natural born charmers and resigned to being regular humans.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

5) A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

There are some people who don’t understand the concept of marginal utility until they have a heavy stomach or crispy lungs.  These are apparant disorders, oral fixation as Freud put it. So what happens if you try to put it all together, to figure it out? You do it bit by bit, one piece after another. How do you do it if it’s broken down into a million pieces? There really couldn’t have been a better cover for a thought as hauntingly beautiful as this.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

6) Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

Paris! Fromage, vin et luxure. La ville des lumières. (I suggest you use google translator like I did) The idea is that everything sounds better in French, despite all the phlegm and spit. It’s a place where we think lust and love meet, a place reserved for our traveling plans as we grow up. Here is a cover that pulls us even closer to Paris. It’s a tangible memory that serves as the cornerstone to all the romantic castles we have built in the air.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

7) Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.

Requiem For a Dream by Helbert Selby Jr.

Requiem For a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.

There is something called ‘pscyho-sensory reaction’ , a rather fancy term for feeling and perceiving I’d say. But literature has thrown in the word ‘feeling’ in so many spectrums, making me go back to the rather accurate diction of science. The moment I see this photo, I feel vulnerable and then I buy this book.
See. Feel. Buy. Buy! Pschyosensory reaction. Scienced.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

8) Living to Tell The Tale by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Living to Tell the Tale by  Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez Photograph/David Alan Harvey

Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez Photograph/David Alan Harvey

I attended a workshop a couple of days ago in which the photographer spoke about how each photo is a lie. It can be a lie of omission, a lie bound by the photographer’s perception. Each photo is also a truth because it records something as it is. Ultimately however, a photo can never be absolute as we all read it differently.
Here’s yet another lie, my version of this cover-I think it’s rather conversational. I can see an old man, with maybe a white toothbrush moustache who sat down in a tea shop in some tropical country. I imagine he put his hat down before he started telling his tale.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

9) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry Photograph/Dario Mitidieri

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry Photograph/Dario Mitidieri

Nothing does more justice to the title of the book than this photograph made by Dario Mitidieri. In Mistry’s account of India’s state of emergency, the corruption that came with it  and the fight for survival, this photograph provides a fine balance indeed.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

10) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

In all fairness, this is a book cover that would get a double take. Whether it’s a diabolic cover or not, that’s a different story altogether. This is the cover that facilitated an influx of imitations… ideas were extracted from this one central idea. From what I know, the photographer was paid USD 10 for this photo. Who knew an apple, which had no relation to the story whatsoever, could make an entire generation believe in shiny vampires.

You can purchase this book by clicking here.

Tags: twilight, David Alan Harvey, Dario Mitidieri, book covers, eva hoffman, joyce johnson, requiem for a dream, A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry, Living to Tell The Tale, Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Hubert Selby Jr., A Million Little Pieces, James Frey, Missing Men: A Memoir, Girl Land, Caitlin Flanagan, Paris Trance, Geoff Dyer, lists, stunning photography on book covers