The books we judged by their covers – and loved

Never judge a book by its cover? Penguin.co.uk writers admit to when they did - and found books they couldn't bear to part with.


It’s one of the oldest adages in, well, the book: never judge one by its cover. And yet covers are crucial to our experience of choosing, buying and reading books, and are often a huge part of why we treasure them as much as we do.

Hours of conversations, ideas and designs go into honing the cover design for every single book brought out – not to mention the imaginative reprintings of beloved classics. Here are some that won us over at first sight. Which are yours?

Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill

Selfie by Will Storr

Selfie by Will Storr

It was a book, but it was also a mirror. Like a magpie, my eye was drawn instantly to it, glinting in the bookshop's strip lights. Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing To Us, read the cover, which I read noticing a new pimple on my face in its reflection. It was a clever cover for what I thought was a clever book about identity and the psychology of self-esteem. Also, Storr is a brilliant storyteller, weaving personal introspections around a parade of extraordinary characters to reveal how modern culture has mechanised narcissism on an industrial scale. Having read it, I definitely saw myself differently, which is the genius of the cover: it changes, slightly, with ever chapter you read.

Matt Blake

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens

The Wrong Place
Jonathan Cape

I can’t say I’ve ever picked up a novel based on a cover alone – I usually go to the bookstore with a title in mind already, then pick the edition of that book whose cover is nicest – but I do it all the time with graphic novels, where the cover (drawn and designed by the author almost every time) is typically a more reliable clue about the book’s contents. One of my best-ever finds was The Wrong Place. The flamboyant, vivacious watercolour cover not only caught my eye but promised exactly the colourful story of life’s bright possibilities Evens tells within. A beautiful book, in every way.

Stephen Carlick

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Supper Club by Lara Williams

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