• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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So Take A Good Look At My Face

Let me just come right out and say that there is almost nothing more beautiful to me than a jacket that is perfect for a book. And by perfect I mean that it gets you to want it before you’ve read it and makes you want to keep it afterwards. I think the beauty of book design is more crucial than ever as readers have the choice whether to buy and read a physical book or download one into their assbook. But I cared deeply about this long before you could purchase a file. Since I was very young, I didn’t even want to read a book if I didn’t like the jacket. I discovered some of my heroes because of their covers: Houseboat Days, In Cold Blood, Day by Day, Horses. But it’s not just the art, it’s the marriage of title and art, the way they work in tandem.

What I really hate more than anything is what I fondly call a Massengill cover, just some douchy artwork that is as generic as the crap you see at a street fair. It usually has a title to match like The Bland Daughter, or Heaven’s Happy, or Marco’s Oil. And the authors look like suburban women who sell real estate by day and are vampires by night. The men I can’t even talk about because they are scary as in: may I help you with your groceries, miss?

Please write in with your favorite jacket covers ever, if you like. Especially a book you bought just because of the jacket.

41 Responses

  1. ASSBOOK. ASSBOOK. <3<3<3 Oh, the love I feel right now! (Uh jackets … Middlesex was great … ish … great-ish, Slow Man was hot, Chip Kidd's SGGK cover, anything Chip Kidd just about, and basically every one of Chuck Palahniuk's book covers … they're better than the books. Which is depressing.)

    • i’m with you on the CP covers. i keep picking up his latest because of the cover, but then i think, “i’m going to buy this, read it, and wish it was fight club.”

  2. The slipcased edition of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory.

    The books published by Clark City Press, painter Russell Chatham’s very small house. They often lack any text whatsoever.

    Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America.

    The beautifully understated children’s books of Randall Jarrell.

  3. COLUMBINE was terrific. Murakami’s are good. IN COLD BLOOD in all its paperback permutations. Same for 1984 and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

    THE LOVELY BONES made me buy it. THE LACUNA at least looked good. Ian McEwan could just put his name on the cover. JESUS’ SON I liked.

    Subliminal works. A VISIT FROM THE GOOD SQUAD reminds me of a Tiffany box.

    I don’t like sappy, sweety sweet floating dresses, women running down desert roads, letters sliding out of envelopes or jars of honey.

  4. Favourite book cover ever – The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats. Still with me after 40+ years.

    • The author’s name seems to have faded after all those years, though. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. This teeny-tiny criticism is sent the way Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond” sends hers–with LOVE. If Betsy makes me leave the sandbox and go home for being a brat–it’s been fun!

  5. Lately I love Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files covers, the ones with the cutouts for the sneaky eyes. They’re just fun.

    I also like the jungly-green cover for Pandora in the Congo. It totally gives the flavor of what’s inside, which was pretty good.

    I love the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books, but some of the covers are exactly the same except for the color of her outfit. I can’t tell if I’m up to date with the hardcovers or not! That’s a lazy publisher, and Laurie R. King deserves better.

  6. Just picked up The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. The cover definitely caught my attention.

  7. Anyone here know Persephone books? No cover art, although gorgeous endpapers. But by now I know that the plain pale-grey cover promises pleasure inside. It’s Pavlovian.

    • I just want to hold Persephone books close to my chest. Beauty. I could fall asleep every night to the damn catalogue!

  8. Still like the cover of The God of Small Things. Simple and intricate at the same time. It’s perfect. The cover of The Swan Thieves made me pick it up and read the jacket. Agree that Middlesex is pretty cool.

  9. my most recent book purchased influenced by the cover: John Water’s Role Model (I even like the type of paper the jacket cover is made of…a heavy, rough texture. i love it)

    a book that i think got shafted on the book cover: Meghan Daum’s Life would be perfect if i lived in that house. the yellow was too yellow and the glossy paper too shiny. the picture on the cover was fine (a bit stock photo-ey), but the title font didn’t match her writing for me. i bought it anyway because i like her.

    i love these kind of things about books almost as much as i love the stories inside them. the fonts, the weight of the paper, jackets, even the way the edges of the pages are cut. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh sweet, sweet books.

  10. “Do it precisely because nobody gives a shit. Because language has not yet begun to go bald. And you are a star.” This my new mantra. Still chanting it today.

  11. A Pale Existence by Gillian Paige

  12. I like a lot of the hardcovers that McSweeney’s puts out. There are no jackets. Just the hardcovers with all the art built right into it. Those are my favorites. Bought Citrous County yesterday based on the positive review by Daniel Handler in last Sunday’s NYT and was again ever so pleased by the physical object.

  13. I bought THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery because I liked its old-fashioned cover (I had never heard of the book). I still like it and when I dumped a ton of books at the local used bookstore the other day, this was one of the few books I kept.

  14. I didn’t think there was any book I bought for the cover, but I just rememered one: the original hardcover of The Alchemist. Maybe the title too.

  15. I think in my case covers are not so much why I might buy a book as much as why I might NOT buy the book. If a book’s cover really turns me off, there is going to have to be a compelling reason for me to want to read it. Otherwise, it’s a pass. In my youth I often bought fantasies based on their covers as they typically were evocatively designed. I enjoyed the books featuring Frank Frazetta’s muscular covers for the Tarzan, John Carter Martian books and the Conan/Robert E. Howard books. As an adult among the authors I read are the crime novels of James Ellroy. But I absolutely abhor the covers. In that case I hold my nose in regards to the cover design because I know that inside the book his writing is–sublime.

  16. I seem to like Vintage International covers. Orhan Pamuk’s, The Black Book, and Snow, and Eudora Welty’s profile on The Eye of the Story.

  17. As a young teenager, I was spellbound by Robert Gould’s cover illustration for Michael Moorcock’s THE ELRIC SAGA: PART ONE (Doubleday HC: http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/156865040X/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_0?ie=UTF8&index=0). I haven’t actually read the book in at least twenty years, but it’s still on my shelf—even after sorting and donating great big armfulls of books to my local library prior to exile.

  18. A story collection called I WISH SOMEONE WERE WAITING FOR ME SOMEWHERE. Cover (a lady with luggage from behind) and title made me buy it without knowing anything about it. And I loved it!

    I miss the days when I knew a little less about every book that’s coming out (unavoidable in publishing) and could wander through the bookstore and make those kinds of purchases.

  19. Most recently, Not That Kind of Girl, by Carlene Bauer.

  20. Speaking as one of those with the much-maligned ‘daughters’ in her title . . . sigh. If that we had control over titles or covers.

    Covers I am able to instantly bring to mind: THE WOMAN’S ROOM by Marilyn French. Original OUR BODIES OURSELVES in flimsy newsprint.

    • I just looked at your web site and I must say, you aced the Author Photo! Well done, Grasshopper. (I would read your book just because I like it so much.)

  21. The Nancy Drew books (hard-cover) with the yellow side.

  22. I couldn’t afford it at the time, but I would have bought it just for the packaging: One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box, by
    Deb Olin Unferth, Sarah Manguso, and Dave Eggers. Exquisite.

    I contented myself to get The Two Kinds of Decay by Manguso. Not a jacket, but a lovely cover.

  23. Yes

  24. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. A single eyeball staring at me from the cover of just about anything is enough to hypnotize me into picking it up, if not actually reach for my wallet.

  25. I think the only book I bought solely for the cover was Douglas Coupland’s Shampoo Planet, which I bought when I was 17.

  26. Wild , Fabio

  27. catcher in the rye, both the one with the carousel and the plain white one. i think the white one “fits” better when you take into account what place this book has in our culture (ie it’s one of the greatest books of all time, means a lot to a lot of people), but the carousel one is very attractive.
    i bought house of leaves based mostly on the cover. it is a good cover. the book was pretty good too.
    US harry potter books, also. I prefer them to the UK covers.
    i think probably the best one is the hardcover of the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay.

  28. Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. I couldn’t not buy it once I saw it on the shelf at Brentanno’s, some twenty years ago now.

  29. […] Tattoo got its’ cover.  And for more cover coverage, Betsy Lerner introduces the nomenclature “Massengill Covers” into book lingo. Then there is this: Conservative vs.: Liberal Women’s Book Covers. […]

  30. […] a Comment Betsy Lerner has a term to describe generic book covers:  a Massengill cover.  Read the entire post – […]

  31. I loved the chick lit covers — cartoony representations of a woman from the neck down in a cutesy dress, that sort of thing. Now that chick lit has been choked out, basically, I’m glad some romance novels and women’s fiction are still utilizing that cover type. It just is more fun than a photograph of a woman or an artistic rendering of a couple in a passionate embrace. Blech.

  32. […] Tattoo got its’ cover.  And for more cover coverage, Betsy Lerner introduces the nomenclature “Massengill Covers” into book lingo. Then there is this: Conservative vs.: Liberal Women’s Book Covers. […]

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