Looks can be deceiving, and it’s important to always remember to keep an open mind. You can’t judge a book by its cover, mostly because these days they all have more or less identical colorful blob designs.

Assumptions are often dangerous. They’re also sometimes impossible, if the different things you’re trying to make assumptions about are indistinguishable from one another. They can’t all be about the same topic or written in the same style, but good luck figuring out which is which when you’re only looking at the kaleidoscopic swirls of color on their front covers.

If you make snap judgments based on outward appearances, you’ll probably miss out on a lot of incredible experiences and relationships. More importantly, though, you’ll have a really hard time doing it, unless you have an incredibly discerning eye for color and can tell the difference between cobalt and lapis blue.

It can be tempting to rely on labels, especially when those labels are in stylish sans serif capitals artfully nestled among the colorful blobs. But you have to look beyond those labels, since they’re usually vague and kind of cryptic.

You can’t just formulate opinions based on what other people say, either. It seems like if an author looks hard enough, they can pretty much always find somebody willing to write a complimentary sentence or two to have quoted on the cover. And if everything is “brave” and “incisive,” is anything?

In order to really get to know something in a meaningful way, you need to look past the surface. Specifically, open up the surface and look at the little flap. It’ll give you a way more concrete sense of what the book is about. It’ll also usually have a photo of the author, too—feel free to go wild imagining what they’re like based on what they look like! People have a much broader range of appearances than modern works of literary fiction, so it’s usually easier to make these sorts of judgments.

Personally, I’ve been consistently surprised by what I’ve discovered after initially jumping to conclusions. For example, when I first met my buddy Dan, I wrote him off because I thought he looked weird as hell. But we ended up becoming good friends anyway, and now he’s one of my favorite people to make fun of book covers with. He works at a library, so he’s got loads of opinions on the topic. And to think I never would have gotten to know him if I’d let myself be put off by his dumb hair!

Here’s a thought exercise for you: flip it around. How would you like it if someone made up their mind about you just based on what you looked like? In order for this to be applicable to what I’m saying, imagine yourself smeared with a rainbow of colorful body paints, and also that’s what everybody else looks like. It doesn’t feel too good, does it? Of course not. Because it wouldn’t be fair to make assumptions about what you’re like based on your vividly splotched exterior if all people everywhere look like that too.

Try as you might, you can’t really know what something is like on the inside just based on how it looks on the outside. A book with vibrant amorphous shapes on the cover might be about navigating the perilous waters of academia at a predominantly white institution, but it could just as easily be about a mother and daughter who both work for the same satirically dystopian publishing company. And they’re both called The Precarity.

But that’s okay! The beautiful thing about life is that it’s full of surprises. Not book covers, though. They all just have abstract blobs of bright colors. At least, until the next design trend comes along and they all start to look identical in a different way.


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