How to Judge a Book by its Cover

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A friend of mine has also ventured into online dating, and he really pissed me off when he said we rank our dates according to their looks. “I don’t do that!” I protested. He called bullshit. He said everyone has a hierarchy, whether they realize it or not. I insisted that for me, dating is not a beauty contest, rather, I view dating as I do books.

I love books: books with cracked leather covers; books with torn bindings; books that smell like fresh leather and are embossed with gold. I love stripping off dust jackets, to see what kind of quality is underneath. I enjoy breaking in crisp new paperbacks and am comforted by the old ones with pages warped from a surprise ocean wave.

I’ve been involved with a variety of men, and I have never considered placing them on the shelf from ‘best’ to ‘worst.’ There have been large volumes and slim editions and one, in particular, I had for over twenty years. How can you possibly compare that well-worn cover to a glossy new release? Some of the most damaged volumes I’ve loved the most. There is no ‘best’ or ‘worst’— only different. At the heart of it all, what’s inside the book makes the cover more endearing.

Because the universe likes to test me in such ways, as soon as I told my friend men were pigs and to drop the subject, I received photos from a guy who was interested in me. I don’t mind a bald head (it can be quite sexy) or pointy ears (I have them too) or even glasses, but combining them into one Glamour Shots-esque vignette entitled “Summer Feelings,” made me recoil. My first thought was, “Dude, stay in your lane,” or to go with the literary metaphor, “Dude, stay in your genre.”

My god, was my friend right? Do I categorize men according to looks?

I realized, there ARE some books I just don’t bother with. Maybe the subject matter isn’t my thing or the cover is too garish or the print is too small. Only in the most dire of emergencies (like when I finish a book too soon on a long flight) can I read a novel on my smart phone. (Yes, I carry emergency books on my phone). I have to be desperate to read a novel electronically, but I’ve done it.

I have picked up odd-looking books before and have been hooked by the charm of the narrative. But I’m not going to invest my time in a book I know I’m not going to enjoy. Maybe I’m missing out on some good stories, but there are a lot of stories in the world, and I have to choose wisely. This is why you won’t see me with Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or (a source of debate in our house) Nicholas Sparks. Much like my reaction to Mr. Glamour Shots, I have a good sense of what piques my interest.

Online dating is inherently based upon looks, and on most dating sites, the photo is the first thing you see. It is a fact that slightly disgusts me. However, don’t we also judge people in real life? If a guy walks up to me in a bar, there has to be some kind of hook — some little thing like nice eyes or a good smile that entices me.

I’m not even selecting the Brad Pitts of books. Some of the most beautifully bound volumes can be awful inside. While you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can select a novel based on personal preference. When we are dating, we are choosing a partner we have to be attracted to, otherwise, we sit on the Friend Shelf, which is not the point of being on a dating app in the first place.

It is a mystery why I’m drawn to some people and not others. Kriminalbeamter 51 has an amazing body (think, bodybuilder muscles) but the plot wasn’t driving me forward, and I put it down after chapter one. Selbständig 46 (I doubt that’s his real age) is a character I just don’t relate to. He plays the tuba. In a group. With other tuba players. If I’m ranking instruments on sexy to least sexy, the tuba has got to be at the bottom. I can imagine a lot of different things, but being a tuba-player’s girlfriend isn’t one of them. Stadtplaner 47 was ruled out by default because his profile states he hates dogs. Just from that, I know he’s not my type.

Maybe I do have a hierarchy because Arzt 54 has maintained his #1 spot on the best seller list for 25 days now. Not only is the cover attractive, but he is the page-turner I don’t want to put down. He’s the one I’ll stay up past bed-time for.

Is he the highest rank because of his looks? Of course not. While the cover of a book might be eye-catching, there has to be good content inside — a narrative that reveals depth and evokes real human emotions. The story has to be one you immerse yourself into.

It’s okay to have a must-read hierarchy, but there’s more to a book than a sexy binding. So far, Arzt 54 is at the top of my list. With every turn of the page I become more invested.

I’ll have to keep reading to see if he stays at #1.

Written by

American expat in Germany, formerly conservative homeschool mom now navigating widowhood; runner, writer, Crossfitter, trying to figure **it out

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