Intern Laura Judges Books by Their Covers

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Observation of the Week: Judging Books by Their Colors

I’ve given a lot of thought as to what I want my career to be. It has evolved quite a bit over the years (I’ve come a long way since my space pirate days) and while I’m thrilled with my current goals to own and operate a bookstore, there will always be dream careers that catch my fancy. This week it’s graphic design, specifically for book covers.

The proverbial “they” tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but I’ve always been reticent to give in to peer pressure. And as Keaton, our book buyer, has told me, I am not in the minority. Most people will judge a book by its cover, so it’s good to pay attention to aesthetics when picking out books for the store.

During my observations this week I’ve noticed a commonality between many of our bestsellers: the colors yellow and jade. Newer releases such as RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS by Kevin Kwan, WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and MODERN LOVERS by Emma Straub all feature dual-toned covers. As an Art History major and artist myself, I am fascinated with color and color theory. So I’m setting out to explore the potential motives behind these choices and what they can tell us about their respective books.

Both colors on their own are bright and eye catching, but together they are enhanced. Going straight to the color wheel, yellow and jade are analogous colors, meaning one is a primary color (yellow) and one is a tertiary, or, intermediate color (jade). Usually analogous colors are meant to have a calming effect but both yellow and jade are bright and dynamic.

This choice in color gives potential readers some subtle hints about the books’ plots and themes. The colors are energetic so the books are probably more for fun and entertainment than, say, a Dickens novel. Yellow is a simple color, and this simplicity will probably be reflected in the prose. They will most likely be light and easily accessible rather than heavy and overbearing. But the jade shows that it won’t be boring, there will still be some complex insights. Both yellow and jade are cooler colors, yet still bright. This can represent humor – not bold laugh-out-loud humor, but a cooler, more sardonic kind. And because of the brightness of the colors, one can guess that these books won’t be dreary or depressing in nature.

I’ve gotten all this from one graphic designer’s choice in color. I haven’t even begun exploring titles, cover images, or font – all more clues to the book’s contents. In a world of endless media content it’s impossible to pick up every book and read its dust jacket. I think it’s safe to say we can and should use our visual intelligence skills and judge more books based on their covers.

P.S. – Want to see if I got it right? Come check out these three books to see if their content matches their covers.

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735211025
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - April 4th, 2017

Rich People Problems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385542234
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday Books - May 23rd, 2017

Modern Lovers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594634680
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - May 30th, 2017

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