On Coverflipping and Perceived Intent

Back in May of this year, YA author Maureen Johnson issued a Tumblr challenge to her followers: coverflip a book. What exactly she meant by that was unclear, so as she explained it:

1. Take a well-known book. (It’s up to you to define well-known.)

2. Imagine that book was written by an author of the OPPOSITE GENDER. Or a genderqueer author. Imagine all the things you think of when you think GIRL book or BOY book or GENDERLESS book (do they EXIST?). And I’m not saying that these categorizations are RIGHT—but make no mistake, they’re there.

The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been around for eons, but Johnson’s challenge made the point that yes, we do judge books (and books’ readers) by their covers. As covers are the first thing anyone sees about a book, it’s easy to formulate an (often incorrect) idea of the author’s intent from a graphic and a name. Does the cover feature half of a smiling girl’s face, two people kissing, or generally have a lot of bright colors? Probably written by a girl. Check the name. Does it sound like a girl’s name? Okay, I’m not in the mood for chick-lit romance today, I’m going to go for that book over there with a dragon on it! It looks like it’s written by a guy, so it’ll probably have a lot of action and adventure!

A bit simplistic, perhaps, but you get my point.

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What Can We Learn from The Cuckoo’s Calling?

So, let me ask you a question. Have you been sitting around recently and a thought just magically pops up in your head that, “Man, I really want to read a new J.K. Rowling book”?

CuckoosCallingCoverWell, wait no longer. A couple weeks ago, it was revealed that Rowling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, wrote a crime novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling. And, oh by the way, it’s been out since April.

So, I naturally picked it up and read it. About halfway through, I’ve come to realize that it’s a pretty good book.

And I hate myself for it.

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