Book covers. We all judge by them. And so we should; the sales and marketing and art departments of publishing companies want you to judge the contents based on the packaging. They’ve put good money into it.
You can tell the genre of the book simply by the font, in many cases.
Pink and swirly? One for the ladies, perhaps to read with a frappachino in a pair of knock-off Manolos.
Gold and Bold? One for Dad at Christmas, especially if it has ‘Eagle’ or ‘Force’ or ‘Bravo’ in the title.
The images too will plonk a book right in the middle of a demographic. Black and white photo of a young child? Middle-ages ladies who like a good cry. A red flower on a black background? Teenage girls who like a good cry. A dragon and a sword? Fanboy geeks who only cry when no one is watching.
We all know which books are aimed at us.
But what happens when we want to read outside our marketing profiles?
I would suggest that it is easier for some of us than for others.
I have a friend who is a female poet, she lives in a small village and shops at the WI weekly sale. She is also a massive fan of the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. And there ain’t no font more gold and bold than those. She can quite happily sit on a bus with one of those on show for all to see.
Would the same be true of a male poet carrying a Sophie Kinsella?
I doubt it (though I would love to be proved wrong! Let me know in the comments if you know for a fact that Andrew Motion is an outted Marian Keyes fan!)
Now you might think that this doesn’t matter; an adult’s reading habits are their own affair and people can like whatever they like.
But how much of this is nature, and how much of it is decided much earlier on, in the children’s section of a bookshop (I couldn’t fit the word ‘nurture’ into this sentence)?
Would men like Aga Sagas? They might never know, especially if they were never encouraged to pick up a Jacqueline Wilson.
Women, on the other hand, are happy to give Lee Child a go, because they’re not embarrassed to read Anthony Horowitz.
We can judge books by their covers, but it’s a shame that we are then judged by the covers we own.
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