How to Judge a Book By Its Cover (and a few other factors)

By Neal Comment

“People send me lots of books,” writes 43 Folders editor Merlin Mann, “so I have to decide rather quickly whether one should be added to the ambitious pile of stuff I already really want to finish reading.” GalleyCat has the same problem; fortunately, Mann’s got a checklist of questions readers can ask themselves, whether they get books in the mail or have to look at them in a bookstore, to make the yea-or-nay vote “easy and obvious.” Some of the highlights:

⇒”Is the author’s large, whitish face the primary feature of the cover?”

⇒”Can you find the word ‘secret’ anywhere on the cover of the book?”

⇒”Does the book suffer from the overlarge margins, giant type, two-paragraph pages, and ‘inspiring quotations’ that often suggest a rushed, shoddy, or lazy manuscript?”

Perhaps most important of all, “can you imagine a future in which closing this book on the last page will make you angry that you didn’t just go back and re-read A Confederacy of Dunces instead?” But those are just Mann’s criteria—how do you make these decisions?