Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cover-Up - Booking Through Thursday

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question comes from Julie, who asks:
While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

I’d like to think that I don’t judge a book by its cover, but I’d be kidding myself. Once I’ve read a book its cover no longer has any influence over whether I enjoyed reading it or not. Once I’ve opened it I tend not to notice the cover. If I know what I’m looking for eg a specific title, or a book by a particular author then the cover doesn’t affect me at all. But it’s a different story when it comes to books I haven’t heard about before and then do find that I am repelled by some covers, indifferent to others and attracted by some. I don’t like those covers where you only see part of the body of, usually a woman, as though she has no head, or feet. I don’t like covers like those on modern publications of Jane Austen’s novels or ones with photos from the film or TV adaptations of a book, or chick lit covers.

I’d like to say that I judge a book by its content alone but I don’t like books that are printed in either a very small or a very large font. I don’t like it when there are large sections printed in italics, or a smaller font – the copy of Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner that I read was like that and I had to flip through the pages to see how much minute font I had to endure. I like the feel of a book in my hands, so smooth, clean paper is a bonus, but I'll still enjoy a book that's printed on cheap paper that's been suffering from too much sun and is falling to pieces.

I don’t mind hardback or paperback, although I get a bit irritated by both if they’re hard to hold open when I’m reading, or if they’re so tightly bound that you can’t see the words in the centre without practically forcing the book open. I'm not keen on those paperbacks that have covers that bend open once I’ve started to read the book. I don’t know the difference between a trade paperback and a mass-market paperback at all, so I can’t comment on that.

It looks as though there’s a lot that I don’t like when I think about it, but if I’m enjoying the content then its format doesn’t really bother me - I just love reading. I like the cover to indicate something about the content of the book and even when it doesn’t I do like scenes like this one on The Magician's Assistant. I must write about this book soon, I finished reading it weeks ago. Part of it is set in Nebraska, but not in a house like the one shown on this cover.

As for illustrations if I’m reading non-fiction then any illustrations - photos, sketches, maps amd plans are a must and I love seeing them – usually I look at them before reading any of the book. A novel is different, as I like to form my own pictures of the characters from the descriptions. But I do like to have maps and plans of the locations. Recently I've read some books set in places I don't know and I have to stop reading to look up the area such as Nigeria when I was reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I'll be writing about this book soon - it's an amazing and absorbing book.

C J Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series of books are excellent in this respect – and in all others as well. I find it easier to visualise where the action takes place from studying the maps at the beginning of the books. His latest book is out now and I had a late Christmas present yesterday when Revelation was delivered to my door. Thanks D.

Here is the map
and here is a photo this beautiful, big, hardback copy that is shouting READ ME NOW!


Table Talk said...

Oh I do love books with maps. I don't like illustrations. I want to be able to visualise characters for myself but give me a map to follow the action and I'm sold on the book before I even start it.

BooksPlease said...

Me too, Table Talk, me too!

Jaimie said...

Great post and thanks for including the illustations! I love maps too and I refer back to them when included. I like to really understand the layout where the story takes place.

Megan said...

I have a lot of crummy and falling apart books. When the pages are almost a brown color and very rough to the touch it almost hurts to read them. What am I talking about? It DOES hurt to read them, they scratch against my finger tips and I have to make sure not to read the book when I am very tired or it bothers me so much I want to rip it to shreds.

Jeane said...

I really like it when a book includes maps. And I really hate it when a book has images from the movie on the cover. Agree with you wholeheartedly on those points!

gautami tripathy said...

What an interesting and elaborating post! I loved reading it. And yes, I love maps within a book!

Booking through cover

ravenousreader said...

i love maps in books, especially when they're done really well and deeply detailed. Deborah Crombie always puts maps of the village she's writing about in her mysteries, and I love following the people around :)

I'll be looking for your post on The Magician's Assistant. I read it long ago, but did enjoy it.

Melody said...

Great points! I don't mind maps too, since they really helps with the stories.

pussreboots said...

I wished Neverwhere had a map. It could have used it.

Like you, I judge new books by their covers.

Happy BTT.

zetor said...

Great post . Have you started 'Revelation' yet, I thought it wasn't published yet. I have it on order at the library and can't wait to get my hands on it. I love Sansom's books.