Judging a Book By Its Cover Again

I wrote the other day how I visited the library and got a number of novels.

  • Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan

I am very interested in reading all of them. I’ve only heard great things about them. I couldn’t decide which one to get from the library first, so I got them all. And yet, the reason I chose to start the one I started surprised me.

I started reading The Handmaiden’s Tale. Why? Because it’s a softcover, small book that feels nice in my hands. All of the others are very beautiful, nice hardcover books. But at 300+ pages each, their extra-thick special-edition pages make them look and feel intimidating in my hands.

The other least intimidating book on that list? Atonement. Although it’s hardcover, it’s pages aren’t as thick; it’s not a “special edition.”

I realized I love owning hardcovers, but I prefer to read softcovers. I didn’t realize that would make a difference in my reading selections.

Which would you read first? What kind of cover do you choose to buy or to read? Does it make a difference to you?

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. It’s hard for me to say why I chose the book I do.  Sometimes I need something light (because of something that’s going on or because I just read a heavy book) but other than that I’m not always sure why I grab the one I do.

  2. I prefer to read softcovers too. One of the reasons is the fact that I always carry my books around. A lot of my reading is done when commuting or on my lunch break. And carrying a hardcover around all day is not something I look forward to.  So when I do read hardcovers, it tends to be during weekends, when I can read solely at home.

  3. @Nymeth:  Same here.  Soft covers are also cheaper, but sometimes that doesn’t stop me from buying a hardcover.

    @Rebecca, I’ve been wanting to read The Blind Assassin for ages.

  4. I prefer to read softcovers as long as they’re not falling apart.  Some of the ones at my library are in pretty bad condition.  Hardcovers can be a bit of a nuisance, but they look prettier on a bookshelf!

  5. Hi!! that is a tough choice.  I just bought the Blind Assassin so it is on my list, I also own Possession and I have been wanting to read Atonement.  It is good to have choices.    I like hard cover books, but when traveling I like good a paperback.   The Handmaiden’s Tale is very good.    Happy Reading.

  6. I’ve actually read all of these books, and I loved them all, so it depends on what you’re in the mood for.

    The last three are all told in several different layers (does that make sense? like there’s fake books within the book), while The Handmaid’s Tale has a straight-forward allegorical feel and Half of a Yellow Sun uses a shifting third-person narrative tone.

    Atonement and The Blind Assassin both have a melancholic (is that the right word? you know what I mean!) tone.  Possession has a blend of academic and Victorian tones.  Half of a Yellow Sun will bring you straight into Nigeria.

    Except for The Handmaid’s Tale, they’re all really character driven stories.

    Can’t think of anything else to help you choose! 🙂

  7. Chain Reader, I too love a book that looks good on the shelf.
    Toni, I’m looking forward to reading! and Eva, thanks so much for the run down of them. I want to read them all even more now! You aren’t helping me narrow it down….;)

  8. Me too…I like to own hardcovers but reading softcovers is so much more confortable to me.

    The Handmaiden’s Tale tops my list as one of The  Scariest Books I’ve Read.

  9. yasmin, as I said in the post, The Handmaiden’s Tale, because it was softcover and attractive….The others were all hardcover, special editions and for some reason they intimidated me! I finished it already–two (or was it three?) days! On to the next…

    I read

  10. I’m totally a judger of book covers.  Without great art, why would I pick up a book?  I especially like the feel of a good paperback.  And The Handmaid’s Tale is a great choice… I hope you enjoy!

  11. I love a great cover that displays what the book is really about and on that immediatley catches my eye. Lots of colors and a great title!!

  12. I’m in same position as you. Love owning hardcovers but enjoying reading paperbacks (they’re so much easier to carry!). I’m such a cover-holic. If I see a gorgeous eye-popping cover I’ll go see if the library owns first, if I buy books based off of covers I’ll be debt by now XD.

  13. Half of a Yellow Sun is the only one of those I haven’t read. The rest are all fabulous—Possession and The Handmaid’s Tale are among my very favorites.
    I prefer to own and to read trade paperbacks because they’re easier to tote around than hardcovers, and book jackets annoy me. I will buy hardcovers if I get a good deal, and I like having reasonably sized hardcover versions of the classics. Mass market paperbacks are my least favorite—they’re too small and they won’t lay flat if I’m reading over lunch.
    Covers might catch my eye, but it’s titles that really draw me in.

  14. I have to say that I love, love, love that you use your public library.  In this day of technology and on-line bookstores, we sometimes get thrown to the wayside.

    Covers are definitely noticed but word of mouth seems to be the best way to get people to read books in my experience.

  15. I prefer to hold a trade paperback sized book, and I like the look of them on my shelves. I can distinctly remember wondering why someone would choose to buy that size instead of a hardback when I was about 19, but now, I know.

    I have read The Handmaid’s Tale, but in high school. I think I have 4 of the 5 in my TBR (counting the Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t really remember.)

  16. Mm, paperbacks; they are so touchable.

    How is Atwood so far? I put her down for the A to Z challenge, but it starts in January, so I can’t start reading until then (I think)

  17. Ruby and Yan, yes covers surprisingly do make some difference, huh?

    Teresa, good point about the mass markets!

    Lisa, yes, I still like how hardbacks look on the shelf, but I was so surprised that really, it’s the softcover that’s easiest and most pleasant to read.

    Tuesday, good word for it: touchable. I am kind of ambivalent about the Atwood I read….but it’s not the writing it’s the novel. I do intend to read more Atwood!

    Deirdre Durance, I heard about all of these books via word of mouth first–and then I make my trip to the library. I love libraries!

  18. I love to own hardbacks and will often switch out a paperback that I own with the hardback if I find it.  I prefer reading paperbacks though.  And I always judge a book by it’s cover, half of my selections just “call” to me that way.

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