Noelle vs. The Embarrassing Book Covers

[Editor’s note: Noelle shares with us her story about a fight many a reader has had—to read or not to read books with “those covers.” You know what I’m talking about.]

Round One: Scorn

I have always been a book lover.

I have always been a fan of awesome.

But unfortunately, I haven’t always been so open-minded about certain genres—-especially those with questionable cover designs. Nowadays, I usually subscribe to the Stephon Marbury philosophy that [book] love is [book] love but only a few short years ago, I was that girl side-eyeing your selections in the Barnes & Noble checkout line, rolling my eyes at the ratio of abs to cover space and assuring anyone who would listen that I didn’t read those kind of books.

That is, until I did…

Round Two: Begrudging Curiosity

One of my college roommates was what I affectionately refer to as a Romance Shark. She was unabashedly addicted to romance novels of all kinds and had a multi-state swap network set up with her extended family. I held out for as long as I could but browsing her bookshelves and observing what she was reading was inevitable. 

Slowly but surely, I succumbed to curiosity. After more than a few books were “accidentally” left on the coffee table, my snarking evolved from catcalls at the shirtless dudes on the cover to,

Wait—so he’s a time traveling highlander?



What’s an urban fantasy?


The Romance Shark immediately sensed a weakness in my defenses—-blood in the water, if you will—-and dared me to read one—just one—of those books. 

And, crap… I liked it.

Round Three: Denial

Yet I think we can all agree that there is a big difference between enjoying something and admitting to it in public. Memories of my judgmental attitude were all too fresh in my mind. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of such scorn! Sure, the inside might be awesome, but the outside was THIS:

From left to right: That’s exactly what my mechanic wears. BOOBZ. Oh, don’t mind my LION.Embarrassing covers weren’t even restricted to romance and urban fantasy, oh no! My precious YA had to get in on the public humiliation as well. I would read some great reviews but then couldn’t quite bring myself to debut the YA-Intense-Pre-Makeout-Staring covers in my work lunchroom.

No one wants her personnel file to have the note,

Her reading choices make her coworkers uncomfortable.

What was even worse was when the embarrassing cover didn’t even accurately portray the book’s contents!

Case in point: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brooks. The main character is a badass female airship captain and the male lead was known for his brightly colored waistcoats—-you know, those things that cover your torso? (I love how he has forearm guards but I guess his abs are protection enough in a sword fight?)

When I finally got around to reading these books, I was (almost) never ashamed of the writing, just the covers. Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of awesome and to me what is more awesome than witches and warlocks in the Wild Wild West?

Or a mercenary and a treasure hunter screwball comedy adventure romance?


What was holding me back was pure aesthetics.

Round Four: Acceptance

And you know what? How silly was that?

Why deprive myself of the badass heroes and heroines, action and adventure—not to mention major swoonage—just because some stranger is raising an eyebrow at my book cover? I’ll raise you back both eyebrows, you sad John After-less individual! You are missing out on SO MUCH FUN.

I refused to forgo the pure delight of these novels just because of their packaging. I started ignoring the cover and focusing on the synopsis and boy did I reap the benefits. They tried to put me in a box! But I’m unstoppable! Ahem.

Anyway, I called a cease fire in my war against embarrassing book covers and the peacetime was marvelous.

Round Five: Salvation

And then my hard-learned lesson became obsolete.

Hello, Kindle.

Seriously, kids today, they just have it SO GOOD. They will never know the Torment of the Embarrassing Cover™. Now, no matter what body part is heaving on the cover, or what degree of stare-down/makeout is being cameoed the other people on the bus will be none the wiser!

Sometimes I wish I could have skipped my battle with Embarrassing Covers and jumped straight to living in harmony but in the end I have to admit I learned a valuable lesson: 

I like what I like—and you can like it or not!


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