Judging a Reader by Her Book Cover

Last winter, while at a ski lodge, I saw a mother in her forties sitting at one of those long tables by herself while her kids were on the slopes. She was hunched over a copy of a book from the Twilight series. This was not itself interesting. What was interesting was how hard she was trying to hide what it was she was reading. The dust cover was off and, though the book was resting vertically on the table, one of her forearms was strategically running up the length of the spine, blocking the name. How’d I know it was a Twilight book? Well, when someone is trying that hard to keep a secret you want to find it out. I spotted the title when she let her guard down for a second to take a sip of cocoa.

The reason for bringing this up is that it calls to mind the interesting predicament that a lot of readers have in public: They don’t want you to know what they are reading. The blog Tres Sugar seems to be confirming my observation about the elder Twilight reader. Sometimes you want to read it even though the book itself is trying to tell you it is meant for someone else, another age group perhaps, or maybe a different gender.

Now, this can slice both ways. You may be embarrassed by how trashy your book is. You may also get some smirks for running too highbrow. Consider Judd Apatow’s take on the latest Hollywood would-be author. (No, not that one.)

I love James Franco. I remember when he was on the set of “Freaks and Geeks” and in between takes he’d be reading Freud and I would think, “Is he actually reading Freud, or is he trying to impress people?”

(I promise. No more James Franco references after this.)

It’s fair to say that the books on this blog’s “master list” might draw some groans from people who think you’re trying to play smart. You’re not though. If you did you’d be wearing this t-shirt and telling people how much you loved Moby-Dick, even all those awful chapters on whaling techniques (Note to everyone. If you ever want to read Moby-Dick, cut out the whaling chapters. You will actually enjoy it.)

So what are you to do if you want to read a book in public that might draw same raised eyebrows? There’s actually a small cottage industry devoted to this sort of thing. There is this option, which hides the book’s cover but gives a hint of what lies beneath.

There’s this one, which my wife should plug on her own blog.

But my favorite is this one, which would be more suitable for cloaking your favorite ebook.


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