Like much of conventional wisdom, the old saw about not being able to judge a book by its cover is dead wrong. You can’t always tell how good a book is from the outside, but it’s entirely possible to determine how bad it is.
The first ground rule: If there’s a picture of the author on the front of the object, do not buy or even read it. What you’re holding is not so much a book as a wordy advertisement for someone’s ego, someone who probably needs less attention, not more. If the subject is of sufficient interest, a real writer will have written about him or her—buy that book instead. You may be raising an objection here. What about the witty, self-deprecating work of such figures as Tina Fey or Craig Ferguson? Aren’t those almost like real books? Fine. You are hereby granted permission to read them as soon as you’ve caught up with all the worthwhile writing produced by non-celebrities.There are edge cases to be considered as well. If the book is an erotic novel that the publisher wants you to think is a thinly-disguised memoir, and it sports a sexy nude photo on the cover that’s just blurry enough to pass as a picture of the book’s attractive young author, do not read it even though the first rule has not technically been violated. This second rule is known as the Steinke Corollary....Read More