Book Review: The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Dressing a book is an art, there’s no doubt.”

How do you clothe a book?

In this deeply personal reflection, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri explores the art of the book jacket from the perspectives of both reader and writer. Probing the complex relationships between text and image, author and designer, and art and commerce, Lahiri delves into the role of the uniform; explains what book jackets and design have come to mean to her; and how, sometimes, “the covers become a part of me.” (Goodreads)


My first thought when I found out about this essay is that finallyyy someone is talking about book covers! 😍 I should mention that Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I have read most of her books except for In Other Words which I plan to read in the next few months. I think that Lahiri is one of the very few authors with a real insightful view of the world and has a unique and eloquent way of translating that into the page. I highly recommend her collection of short stories Unaccustomed Earth!

“If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.”

There is a classic saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” –one that people mostly take both figuratively and literally. I will be very honest, a book cover plays a huge part of whether I will pick up a book or not, especially if the author is not someone I know. For me, a truly great story should inspire a great book cover. Sadly, I know it doesn’t always turn out like that. It could have a great cover but so-so content, or it can have great content but with an unimpressive cover. I hate when the former happens, but I’d be heartbroken for the latter. I think every book should be given a chance to look its best so it can meet someone who will love it as it deserves.

“From an exchange between author and artist springs the ideal exchange between jacket and text.”

As a part of a small publishing team, this honest and thought provoking piece really spoke to me on how we should be more mindful of how we design our books. Working in such a small team of artist creators, I feel it’s so much easier for the book designer and the author/artist to really create that perfect book cover. This connection is essential to really give birth to that perfect book: one that will speak to both readers and the writer. We should be mindful not to lose this as we grow and expand as a business. Book covers are not marketing tools alone but as Lahiri so eloquently states:

“A cover is a sort of translation, that is, an interpretation of my words in another language–a visual one.”

A book is like a vessel that contains an entire universe: we plunge into worlds we could only imagine; meet fictional or nonfictional characters that eventually become our friends and family; the love and laughs, the tears and fears we all have the pleasure to share. When the content and the cover works well together, it creates such a beautiful experience. But whether it’s the art, the blurbs or the awards on the cover that makes one pick up a book, it is ultimately the author’s voice that a reader falls in love with.

“In the end, the beauty of the cover has nothing to do with it. Like every true love, that of the reader is blind.”

Overall rating: 4/5⭐️

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