How often do you judge a book by its cover? How often are you surprised by what you find? Do you strategize and make sure every book in your series has the same cover design (as far as you are able to) and type? How important is it for the visual art on the outside of the book to match or coordinate with the literature art on the inside?

Yes, design does matter. Perhaps it shouldn’t. Perhaps we should be enthralled by the content and not care about the presentation, but it does matter. Despite the expansion of the world of e-books, the tactile sensation of holding a book remains part of our daily reading lives. And what it looks like affects us.

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Having a complete set of anything is so satisfying. I can’t deny that I love my Penguin clothbound classics, even though the titles can easily be found in other, cheaper printings. I only have a few — I’ve limited myself to titles that have meaning for me — but they are lovely to hold and look at. The paper is light, the font is vintage-style and the grip of the covers is glorious.

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This one is a bit of a sore spot for me. I love the Erast Fandorin series, but after about the fifth title, they stopped publishing them in the US. I had to buy three of them on my honeymoon in England and I’ve since ordered a couple more from English stores. So the covers are all varied and it kind of annoys me. I may try to collect the earlier titles in the newer designs. Just because.

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Of course I judge a book by its cover! It’s the only way to get some sort of handle on the millions of titles out there. A good cover can really tell a story on its own. It should evoke the tone and mood of the book. Here are a few that I think captured the essence of the story without being too literal.


My own blog has seen a few iterations. I started on Blogger and I ran three different blogs there. Each one had its own background image and style, while maintaining a consistent vintage look. When I finally made the leap to my own domain (and posting via WordPress), I tried numerous themes and taught myself how to code (sort of) in order to personalize it.

I want my site to reflect my love of classic style and the features vintage newspaper. I keep the design spare — white background with dark, serif text — and only incorporate colors in the sidebar items. I also made a conscious choice to not have ads and keep graphics to a minimum.

A font sample from 1874
A font sample from 1874

I find the sites I prefer to visit (and read most often) share these traits. I would recommend to anyone starting up a new blog, or looking to redesign, to find an easy-to-read layout and keep it consistent.

One suggestion is to create a great header for your site. There are plenty of great resources for free, public domain graphics. The British Library has recently posted more than one million images for use. The New York Public Library had organized beautiful albums for anyone to use. The Vintage Graphics Fairy posts small items from old books and ads. You can also get some great ideas from the amazing Public Domain Review.

15 thoughts on “ARMCHAIR BEA 16: Aesthetic concerns in books and blogs”

  1. I was taught not to judge but when I think about it judging is necessary to make a sound decision. With regards to books, yes I judge a book by its cover and sometimes I have been deceived. I think using the cover as a guide is helpful but looking at the content or even the table of context can be beneficial too!

  2. I’m a total “cover snob” when it comes to book covers, but I do TRY to make sure I read the synopsis’s too. Because sometimes, a cover isn’t everything although I think authors (if they’re INDIE) need to consider their covers too because that IS what draws us in.

  3. You really chose some book covers I’ve loved and that do really match up well with the stories. I didn’t care as much for The Sisters Brothers as I had hoped, but that cover is fantastic and true to the nature of the book.

    I love your blog design. It’s been a while since I’ve changed my layout. I’ve been having a hard time getting my blogging mojo where I’d like it to be over the past three years. I’ve been close several times to retire from book blogging, but it’s so much a part of me I haven’t been able to. I don’t want to put any more money into it to spruce it up until I feel back in the saddle.

  4. I love your layout! I also like your font choice. I think that’s one of the things that I dislike about my blog, actually. I should go change that now. Great tips here. Thanks so much for sharing them.

  5. Covers definitely matter. I try not to judge by the cover too much, but I can’t help it. It’s the first thing I see, and it needs to capture me in order for me to pick up the book. I love the covers you’ve chosen. They are stunning and eye catching.

  6. I love the selection of covers you’ve picked out, they all look very carefully crafted and definitely stand out too. Also, thank you for sharing the links for the resources, they will prove really useful. Happy reading!

  7. You picked some great covers to showcase! I would say unless you’re going by author recognition, the cover is always what attracts you. Happy Reading!

    1. That’s a great point. I often say that covers help me narrow down a very wide range of books out there. I’ve learned over time what genres / types of stories look like and use that as a gauge.

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