Read Ugly Books and Treat Them Poorly

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

That’s what *they* all say. And usually *their* advice is aimed at people who choose books with engaging titles or cover art.

I think you should judge a book by its cover, but not for the reasons you think.

Sure, the cover might give you a good idea about the quality of the content. You can usually count on the adage to lead you wrong there. Most good books know how to advertise themselves well.

But perhaps just as importantly, the *quality* of a book’s cover will give you a good idea of the reading experience you’re going to have.

We all like the prestige of beautiful, delicate, leather-bound volumes. But let’s be honest – we all have five of these leather-bound volumes that we’ve never read and probably never will.

I’m convinced that beautiful bookbinding actively discourages people from reading.

It takes *aggression* to work through a good book well. But when we have books with beautiful pages and beautiful covers, we don’t want to mess things up. We don’t feel like it’s appropriate to take these books off the shelf, let alone outside of our library chairs. And so we end up approaching them with timidity of a peasant approaching a princess. We eventually give up. After all, who wants to stay in the study and use gloves to do all their reading.

It’s best to read books that you can treat roughly.

I’ve always gotten the most out of books when I devour them like I might devour greasy, cheap pizza. I turn the pages greedily. I dog-ear them. I write in the margins. I underline sentences and block off paragraphs. I take my books to the park, to bed, to the dinner table, in my work bag. I don’t mind if I tear the pages a bit. I don’t worry about what the book will look like or where it will be in ten years.

I just focus on the reading.

Books are tools, not decorative items. We should be able to *use* them. Whether they look nice or not is of secondary importance. And if the niceness of a book’s cover is keeping you from reading it, get uglier books – or make the pretty ones ugly with a good, aggressive readthrough.


James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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