It's Expository Title Time!

Remember back in the Good Ol' Days™, when one had to actually read a book to find out what it might be about? When the title gave little or no clue regarding what you'd find within? Like A Clockwork Orange, or Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Lord of the Flies?

Those days are gone, folks! In today's Modern Society™, a busy Hausfrau has no time to dilly-dally over books whose meanings cannot be discerned instantaneously!

We here at Judge a Book By Its Cover are proud to bring you today's edition, featuring Harlequin Romance's line of self-explanatory expository titles, all seen by Maughta and me while we hit the grocery store this evening to stock up for our New Year's Eve soirée tomorrow night. The first course is Italian Boss, Housekeeper Bride:

Without having read the book, I'd guess that's our Italian hero on the left. He's likely the boss. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that at some point in our novel's denouement he's going to marry his housekeeper. That's probably her, on the right. Why they're consummating their marriage on the set of some low-budget 1970s' porno film, I dunno: the title gives no clue.

While we're on the subject of Italian romance heroes, what's better than a swarthy Levantine adonis with a ripped bod and gorgeous dark hair? How about a swarthy Levantine adonis with a ripped bod, gorgeous dark hair, and a shitload of personal worth?

As to the title: might we leave anything to the imagination? Whatever happened to subtlety, understatement, metaphor? Can we try to entice our readers with a hint of mystery, a soupçon of suspense? A well-chosen title can be quite a draw. I mean, would anyone have read Watership Down if it were called The Internecine Warring of a Bunch of Rabbits?

Once again, I'm betting that Giacomo, on the left, is Italian. And he's probably rich as Croesus, but inexplicably unhappy. The chick on the left danced into his life around Christmas time and got stuffed into the stocking he'd hung by the chimney with care. Now her zipper's stuck.

I wonder if he gets off on being called a "naughty elf."

Not to be outdone by the Italians, the Greeks have thrown a billionaire of their own into the mix:

Another Mediterranean Mammon, another lucky bride. At least in this case there is a scintilla of ambiguity in the title: what role does the baby play in the revenge? Has this here gold-digger had a baby by Aristotle Rastapopulos in order to blackmail him into marriage, or has the couple's one-year-old, sick to death of strained peas and early bedtimes, contrived to get the better of his hapless parents? Read on, to find out!

Until next time, your homework: come up with literal, expository titles for your favorite literary classics (ex.: Obsessive-Compulsive Sailor Goes After Big Whale).

Oh, yeah, and happy New Year!


Special Christmas Edition

Howdy, and Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate this particular solstice holiday!

I thought I'd get on-line this morning and put together a special Christmas Edition of JaBBiC, including elements both sacred and secular, but in any case nutty as hell: bad (or simply wacky) book cover art respects no religion more than any other, and it wasn't hard to find a few gems. I have to admit that in a couple of these cases, the titles are funnier than the covers.

Let's start off with a children's book whose double-entendre title suggests the book's theme:

I don't suppose the task demanded of us will be that hard if on every page, as on the cover here, there's a shaft of heavenly light pointing the way to our hidden friend. Too many Galileans crowding around him here to tell if he's pulling his walking-on-water schtick here, but he does appear a foot taller than anyone else around. Not to mention pale as a ghost; Werner Sallman's Jesus looks downright swarthy by comparison. In fact, this is the whitest bunch of Palestinians I've ever seen.

Incidentally, the other books in the series are Can you find Bible heroes? and Can you find followers of Jesus? (no, I'm not kidding).

So then, turning to the secular side of Christmas:

Ah, the joys of self-publishing!

I have no idea what the deal is with this book aside from the fact that its author is a graphic designer from Alabama who seems to have some kind of a sweetheart deal with Santa Bruce, RBS (Real Bearded Santa...I wonder if you have to go to school for that degree? Bruce does indeed claim on his website to have a degree from the International University of Santa Claus, but there's no scan of his diploma, so on that point we'll have to take his word), an Atlanta-area professional Santa Claus.

Regarding the cover, though: Santa appears to be in need of some high-fiber muesli. I'd hate to be the naughty child whose home he's visiting in that cover image. Keep those hands where we can see 'em, Santa.

Next, we've got a book whose cover is pleasant enough, but which book itself we can file under 'T' for "They really wrote that?!":

Apparently Wycliffe Bible translators secured the work of linguist Joseph Grimes, who toiled for 12 years to put together this translation of the New Testament into Hawai'i Pidgin. Need a reason? Check out the Pidgin Bible's homepage to learn more about the effort, and to read excerpts from the translation.

And, going from the odd to the merely creepy, I'll close with the back cover of Santa's secret: a story of hope, the real story of Secret Santa USA:

"...He fell to his knees and shouted jubilantly, 'yes! I finally have the cash to buy this book!'..."

Meanwhile, the man with the suitcase is chagrined that the outsized angel has once again managed to track him down. He thought he'd lost him outside of Poughkeepsie.

Happy Holidays, one and all, whether your holiday came a few days back (Winter Solstice or Hanukkah) or has yet to begin (Kwanzaa), or whether you're smack dab in the middle of it now (Christmas).


The Iceman Cometh, or, Baen of Our Existence

DocTurtle here with a Sunday night sampler.

"That cover is creepy!" says Maughta. "It's freaking me out, just a two-second glance at it."

C'mon, Maughta, isn't this kid the very picture of clean-cut American youth? Look at that chiseled jaw, that blond tuft of squared-off hair, those ox-like shoulders. This kid's a'ight.

I gotta admit that the tag-line ("Is he as cold as the ice he skates on?") is a nice bit of cornballery, but...nah, this one's just not doin' it for me. I've gotta find one with a little more oomph...

This is definitely creepier, if you ask me: identical (yet reflected) Yorkies and an eyeless blonde caryatid sloppily photoshopped onto a featureless field. It's a chick-lit version of The Fantastic Planet.

But no, still not feeling it...

Awright! Baen comes through for us again! What's not to love about this cover? How often do you get to see giant green meerkats sparring with mauve-caped swordsmen while a rogue's gallery of aliens looks on?

As regular readers of this blog should know, David Weber and Baen Books are the twin stars in a brilliant conjunction of cover art crappitude. For those who need a bit more convincing, check out Baen's on-line catalog of Weber's work, a litany of lousy artwork. My personal favorites are In Fury Born and Windrider's Oath, but Maughta likes War of Honor and 1633, the second of which she's already lampooned in an earlier post. Meanwhile, if it's laughable titles you're looking for, look no farther than Bolo!.


Phriday is for Phalluses

Well I got some complaints that there were no mammaries on Monday but I've managed to pull together a phallus for you on Phriday. There's no way to word that sentence to make it non-suggestive. Plus, it's especially weird when your own MOTHER complains of a lack of mammaries...but I digress.

So I'm lookin' up the Publisher's Weekly Best Books of the Year and notice that they've mentioned a book that I noted a while back deserved JaBBIC treatment. How I could have gone this long without bringing it to your attention is beyond me! No more dithering! I present you wtih The Name of the Wind.

Ah, yes, THRUST into the wind, my fiery-haired young gypsy, holding your instrument lightly in your left hand (everyone's favorite masturbating hand, yes?). Sigh. The tragic consequences that occur when Carrot Top and Slash have a child.


The Big...Um...What?

Hey, folks! Me again. I'm lovin' this thing called "Winter Break." So's Maughta: she's getting free posts on "her" blog, and hasn't had to lift a finger. "More bad covers, mule!"

This evening, after a lovely dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, we stopped by our neighborhood Big K, and were inexorably drawn towards the schlock fiction aisle. There, we found two beauties.

The first, from the "Blaze" line of Harlequin Romance and featuring the tag-line "big, bad bounty hunters," is simply called The Big Heat:

No self-respecting straight woman would buy this book. It appears that Bruce here has just woken up and is off to check in for his night shift at The Ingot.

This book pales in comparison with our other find, Magic Hour:

Um. Yeah.

Looking at this book on the shelf, it's easier to mistake (a) the age of the young girl in this photo and (b) her angle of incidence with the protective side of the woman she's accompanying, than it is in looking at the snapshot uploaded here. Upon seeing this cover, Maughta's and my conversation was something like:

"Is she..."


"Are they doing what..."

"No, wait, that's..."

"I didn't see the other pigtail at first, I thought it was a ponytail, which would mean her head would be..."


Please please please tell me that we aren't cursed with the two most gutter-bound minds east of the Mississippi.


Good Book/Bad Cover

Hey folks, it's me again. Maughta's happy that I'm posting again. "Rock," was her reaction. Me, I'm just happy it's Winter Break and I've got a little free time on my hands again.

Tonight's edition features that relatively rare conjunction: "good book/bad cover."

Maughta's had folks clamor for her to post on this phenomenon, but has had a hard time finding fodder for such posts. (If you out there in readerland have come across any works of high literature encased in atrocious artwork, please tip us off to it, we'd be happy to put it on display!)

This afternoon Maughta and I took a trip out to Black Mountain, NC (about fifteen minutes east of here on I-40) and ended up having lunch downtown and wandering through a few of the kitschy high-priced artsy-fartsy shops that cater mostly to rich New Englanders, with which downtown Black Mountain is infested. At the end of our wandering we found ourselves in Black Mountain Books, a nice, well-kept bookstoore with a very nice collection of classic fiction.

It was there that I came across the following image, adorning one of my favorite author's classics:

This edition is from the Time Reading Program Special Edition, put out by Time-Life Books in 1980. Time-Life, awash with malaise and still stung by skyrocketing distribution costs brought about by the oil crisis, was a little strapped for cash and turned to the nation's elementary schools to staff its graphic design department.

I think the powerful pencil strokes are meant to connote a dynamic sense of motion...the end result is more that of motion-sickness and confusion. I can't figure out how the two baseball players are related to one another spatially. (If you didn't know the book was about baseball, would you be able to tell what in the hell is going on here?)

Meanwhile, Glenn Close lurks in the background, carrying the disembodied head of Robert Duvall under her arm.

Yeah, that's it.

Boy, I'm tired.

I'm going to end this, before I really stop making sense.

Hey, folks, let us know if you've got other examples of "good book/bad cover." We'll do what we can to put 'em on display for public mockery.

Oh, and, if you're in the area and would like to check out a pretty bitchin' ongoing book sale, stop by the Swannanoa Public Library in Swannanoa, NC. (And give props to the librarian who works there, she's got a nice one-woman show going on over there.)


Mulleted Schmucks on Camelback

Well, it's that time again.

After a month-long hiatus during which time I'm sure many of you had thought she'd died, Maughta gets on-line and posts a couple of quickly-thrown-together scraplets to fling at you and keep you at bay.

"Maughta," I say, "you oughtn't treat your fans this way. When one is thirsty, one must drink, when one is hungry, one must eat! Without food, one starves. So it is with the mind, too, so one's mind longs for sustenance. Your readers are hungry, they hunger for your snark!"

"Fine, why don't you post!"

"Fine, maybe I will!"

And so on.

Where does that take us now?

Across the blazing sands of some far-away desert, astride ethereal lambent camels, perhaps?

This cover is all sorts of ugly. The camels look pretty blase, but Kip Winger there is positively pissed. Perhaps he ran out of Aquanet? Perhaps they're late for the Dokken concert? Perhaps it's simply that, as can be seen in the detail below, he's been rendered with the skill of a seventh grader with no knowledge whatsoever of human anatomy?

Incidentally, I suppose a "cameltoe" joke would be in bad taste here?

Moving (mercifully) on, we have Kissed by an Angel. Or, in the case of this novel's heroine, Kissed by an Angel-Shaped Norelco Shaver-for-Her, As Shown on TV by Victor Kiam.

What's with the lace-like graphics overlay here? Are we meant to be gazing upon this loving couple through the gauzy wisps of a wedding canopy? Is she focused on his already-receding hariline, or is she just too busy checking out an eye booger to notice? Did someone get fired over this cover? And why am I asking so damned many questions about this godawful artwork, anyway?
Moving on, again...

Maughta made a note to check back on a cover she thought had potential for snarkful deconstruction, belonging to a book titled I Am an Artichoke. I found the cover she was talking about, but I didn't find it odd enough to take the time to upload its image. In the same search, I found what has got to be one of the most incongruous images I've ever come across. I give you, Scotsman standing in Italian street market with tapir made of artichokes, #1:

This image comes to us courtesy of a blog called (you simply can not make this stuff up) LOLTapirs.

You can't top that.

Not that you'd want to.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fat lady has sung.


Rainy Day Meat

I bring you this cover not because it's terrible (well, it is, but it's not as hideous as the usual fare here), nor because it's part of the "Change and Cherish Historical Series" which just sounds trite and boring, nor because the technicolor hues hurt my eyes, or even because the title makes absolutely no sense, but for the simple reason that when I first saw it, I thought it said

A Tenderloin in the Storm
Jeanne Kirkpatrick


Hop on the conga line!

Everyone's doing it!!! As a colleague said to my yesterday, "I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but..."

Smart Bitches Trashy Books


Have YOU judged a book lately? Send me your favorites!


When NOT to Judge a Book by its Cover

So I'm at work (subbing at a branch library, which is totally fun and cool since the patrons don't usually yell at me about their fines, nor do branch patrons tend to smell quite as bad as downtown patrons), and I get to talking to a patron about books. She seems to like some of the things I like, and I happened to be wandering by the paperbacks earlier and saw one of my favorite books, Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking. Which happens to look like this:

So I recommend it, and we go get it, and she says, "Oh, I saw that but the cover looked so cheesy!" AND SHE'S RIGHT!! This is a terrible cover! The hips are totally wrong and the neck is waaaaay too long and it looks like she has scoliosis and there's way too much writing on the cover and the hair is an unnatural shade, even for urban fantasy, and the smoke is just, well, cheesy! Contrast that with the fourth book in the series:

Now, which witch would you rather read?

I hope my patron likes the book!

She's alive!!!!!!!

OMG, have I been neglecting you fine people! I have no excuse. Well, I could probably make up an excuse, but it would involve the CIA and black helicopters, and I'd have to kill you. Of course, DocTurtle tells me that I probably don't have any readers anymore, so I could make up all the lies I want. Y'see, there were these turtles...in Ecuador...and a blimp...a biiiiiiig pink blimp...and you were there, and you and you! But I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow! And Mrs. King!

Okay, seriously, I went to Montana in that time and visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving. So we brought the camera, but did I take pictures of Peggy and Loren (DocTurtle's folks)? No. How about Brad (DocTurtle's brother) and his fiancee, Sarah (hello future sister in-law in-law!)? Of course not! Did we even take pictures of Peggy and Loren's three birds; Squak who used to sit on my shoulder but doesn't come down much anymore, Phoenix who haaaaaates me and waits to ambush me when I come into the room from the bathroom, or Cheeky the newby bird? Nah, who wants pictures of adorable parrots. Did I take pictures of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE USED BOOKSTORE? You bet your ass I did!

Now, I'm a book snob. And a used book store connoisseur. So you know if I have a favorite, it's gotta be fucking awesome, right? So here's the bookstore that Richard runs:

And here's Richard:

If you're ever travelling through Helena, go to Van Nice Books at 216 E Lyndale Ave. You won't regret it. I promise!

So you may be asking yourself, "Self, what does this have to do with book covers?" Well, here's what I found at Van Nice's:

Iggy Pop! In armor! And whiteface! Totally freaking me out!!!

Ah, the joys of self-publication. What I want to know is, did the author paint this picture, too? 'Cause if the book is as bad as the cover it might be fun to read!

I also took some pictures of a totally cool spontaneous art explosion that was happening in a potted plant near the Starbucks (damn you, and your irresistible peppermint mochas!) in the Detroit Airport. If you're headed through there, check it out!

Stay tuned for more covers. I promise! Now stop nagging me, Maughtamom.