By December 29, 2011 2 Comments Read More →

Cover Story

OK, I know, you’re all playing with those new digital readers that you found under the Christmas tree, but put them aside for a minute. It’s time to enjoy something retro: Penguin has released a box of postcards that feature classic covers from its British paperbacks. You can sample a few more pictures here.

Why does this make me so excited? Classic covers are part of our iconography, a reference point that triggers shared memories. One glance at one of the covers we saw so frequently at earlier parts in life can set off an avalanche of associations,  even for those who didn’t read the book. If I mention Dr. Seuss, or The Catcher in the Rye or The Hobbit or Fahrenheit 451, do specific images jump to mind. How much mileage did your high school english teacher get out of this cover when it came time to talk about Fitzgerald’s symbolism?

Still not convinced?  Try it out in your book group. Ask each of your readers to scan their shelves and bring in five books whose covers have special meaning for them. See if it doesn’t get conversation flowing and raise collective nostalgia to a fever pitch. If you can get a projector, visit the Book Cover Archive and see what reactions you get from paging through the many contemporary and classic covers collected within.

And how ingenious is it to put the covers on postcards? This product combines the fading glory of book covers with the lost art of letter writing. Do yourself a favor: use your computer to order a set of these cards online. When they come, turn the computer off and spend an afternoon sharing some handwritten notes with your old book friends. You’ll be glad you did.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

2 Comments on "Cover Story"

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  1. Cindy Dobrez says:

    Little House in the Big Woods and any Nancy Drew cover. Both remind me of the hours I spent reading as a child. These and other books, but these covers bring back the settings where I read, the emotions I experienced reading, the escape it provided me. And then there was the obscure little novel I read a thousand times in elementary school from my library. It haunted me for years and the Internet and online out of print book sources allowed me to reconnect with The Silver Nutmeg by Palmer Brown. I don’t even need to reread it, just seeing the charming cover takes me back.

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