Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bad cover, great book

LinkIn my 15.5 years at Green Apple, I have learned numerous valuable lessons: bad books hide good books, never drive on Clement Street, the customer is not always right but should be allowed to think so, and if you're comfortable with meat of an uncertain provenance, it can be cheaper to buy lunch in this neighborhood than to pack one from home. Here's another lesson I realized just today: there are more great book covers published each year than there are great books published each year.

It took a good book with a bad cover to make me realize this, and I'm not about to roam the store collecting good covers on bad books. . . .

Here's the book that made me realize this maxim, with apologies to New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren. It's not Mr. Koren's fault. There's nothing wrong with his goofy drawing. It simply doesn't even remotely allude to what's inside: an insightful, readable, holistic take on contemporary behavioral economics and its relation to our current fiscal meltdown. While the text isn't dry (OK it's not exactly juicy), there's little whimsy in the contextualization of contemporary behavioral economics in the traditions of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. The authors are clear, and the book is very interesting (a longer blurb about the book itself, which is quite good, can be read here). But there's nothing therein that says to me "silly monkeys, hold on tight!"

Now I'm in the business of selling books, not joaning on them or their covers, but c'mon, Princeton University Press, why hide this interesting and insightful book behind hairy Sasquatchian man-apes clinging to a zig-zag? This is more like it, huh?























I hope bad covers don't become a recurring theme on our blog, but if you have any suggestions of "this book is better than its cover," I'm all eyes. We won't even get in to "this book is better than the movie," right?

8 comments:

maria said...

Any Human Heart by William Boyd. Rotten dull cover great book

shandon said...

Away by Amy Bloom has a generically pretty cover that doesn't begin to hint at the humor and adventure in that novel. And I've always thought The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart might be recognized as an out-and-out classic if it weren't hiding behind that ugly, dated cover artwork.

Jan said...

I've always thought that Here if You Need Me: A True Story
by Kate Braestrup is a perfect example of this. Based on the cover, I had no intention of reading it, I even had the ARC from the BEA, but a customer sold me on it.

Anonymous said...

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox. AWFUL cover, but terrific story. This could be a huge book club sell if the publisher would reconsider the cover art.

Emily Pullen said...

Forthcoming book from Unbridled Books called "Last Night in Montreal" by Emily St. John Mandel. Great debut novel, but I'm dreading the challenge of convincing people to buy it in spite of its cover. I've redesigned it, and I'm thinking of actually printing them up and putting them over the original.

Emily from Skylight Books, Los Angeles

Anonymous said...

"The Impact of a Single Event" by RL Prendergast. When I first came across this book it was handed to me as a potential title for consignment. I only read it out of a sense of obligation as the cover did nothing to gain my interest. The book was outstanding! This is a title that we now carry and I have to push for people to give it a chance as it still has that less than stellar cover.

gonovice said...

On the Road: The Original Scroll, by Jack Kerouac. The cover is nondescript, although the photo on the back is good and probably should have gone on the front. But the book is far better than the original.

Bonnie K said...

This is, perhaps, touching on the warned-against "book is better than the movie" theme, but I feel the need to say it: The worst book covers are on those that have been re-issued to reflect the movie's posters and stars. Just LAST NIGHT I was disheartened to find a copy of The World According to Garp (possibly my all-time favorite) with not only a Robin Williams-centric cover, but a straight-up movie-image montage on the first two pages of front-matter. Ugh.