There must be something in the water. Like Katie, I have been thinking about book jackets, prompted by the work of Joyce Saricks.
Joyce is Booklist’s readers’ advisory (RA) columnist (see At Leisure with Joyce Saricks). She recently wrote a column on book jackets which outlines how useful jacket art and text can be when conducting quick, on the fly RA work.
In addition to all the useful points Joyce makes about series, author popularity, genre, and tone, she prompted me to think about how covers change to reflect societal shifts. Oddly enough, romance titles and Harry Potter perfectly illustrate this.
Romance has moved from covers that looked like this:
To covers that look like this:
and finally, sort of back at least half way to covers that look like this:
While in England at least, Harry Potter gets both adult and children’s covers. The adult version of the last Harry Potter book is gorgeous:
but if you just landed on the planet, you could be forgiven thinking that it was an odd title for a classic reissue:
All this makes me wonder – in addition to what the book jacket and text can tell us about the inside of a book, what does it tell us about society as a whole and what we will and will not read on the subway – in front of an apparently judgmental audience? If the first rule of RA, never to apologize for your reading tastes, is alive and well in libraries, it seems to have a long way to go in publisher’s marketing.