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The Clothing of Books

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,393 ratings  ·  429 reviews
How do you clothe a book?
In this deeply personal reflection, Pulitzer Prize- winning author Jhumpa Lahiri explores the art of the book jacket from the perspectives of both reader and writer. Probing the complex relationships between text and image, author and designer, and art and commerce, Lahiri delves into the role of the uniform; explains what books jackets and design
Paperback, 74 pages
Published 2017 by Bloomsbury (first published November 15th 2016)
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Glenn Russell

Up for a dose of delight? Treat yourself to an hour of sheer joy as you read or listen via audible as Jhumpa Lahiri narrates her reflections on a subject near and dear to the hearts of all booklovers: the art of book covers.

What is a book cover for a writer? How much attention does a potential reader give the cover of a book? Should commercial interests override aesthetic ones? These are just three of the many questions Jhumpa Lahiri addresses.

“Personally, I think it deplorable to place the wor
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jhumpa Lahiri is fast becoming one of my favorite go-to contemporary authors. She writes luscious prose about timely issues in both English and Italian, and her short stories contain such depth that she practically tells an entire novel in each one. I am always on alert to see if one my preferred authors has written a new book, and, while I was not met with euphoria that she had written a new full length novel, I did discover an essay penned by Lahiri in Italian last year entitled The Clothing o ...more
74 pages on thoughts on book covers. Yup. But it was quite fascinating. I'm a huge Jhumpa Lahiri fan and have read all her books. I was recently looking at my library list of new audio books and saw this was there. I was so excited and immediately started it. In The Clothing of Books, Lahiri details how she feels about book covers, really feels about them. She has published 5 books and that sums up to over 100 different book covers/jackets. 100 different! Different covers for hardcover, paperbac ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Believe me, it’s such a glorious feeling to find out that one of your favourite authors has written a book on the topic you feel passionate about. And as far as Jhumpa Lahiri is concerned, it has happened to me twice. In 2015 she published 'In Altre Parole' ('In Other words'), a book about her love for the Italian language, which I share in 100% or even more, and in 2016 an essay on book covers, 'The Clothing of Books'.

I must make a confession here: I’ve been obsessed with book covers since I c
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
When I saw the blurb for this book, I was really intrigued. As a former art history major in college and a voracious reader, I was immediately interested in the relationship between a book cover and the content inside. Understanding and interpreting art has been a passion of mine, so I figured that this book would delve into the intersection of art and reading. However, this book let me down. Big time.

The Clothing of Books is 80 pages of filler. What is written here can be summarized in a short
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I meaaaan, it is a book about books (well, book covers) by Jhumpa Lahiri. I am literally the exact target audience for this essay collection.
This interesting short work from Lahiri is from a speech given fairly recently. It is very specifically on book covers as the outer presentation of the words they represent. It is not about the art of book covers but more about the theoretical presence, existence of book covers themselves. It is a very thoughtful presentation and really made me think back to various times in my life, how I approached books, what use I made of the information on covers, what I might be gaining or losing from the ...more
This was a cute little essay, readable in less than an hour. An interesting dissection into the thought behind the book jacket, what it means and does for the book, and what it represents to both reader and author.

I liked it because it's sort of an awakening. Often readers don't give much thought to a book jacket, yet someone is designing them, someone is behind the decision to place this jacket on a book versus that jacket. I was interested to hear that the author has less input than I'd though
The Clothing of Books was a delightful essay by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Jhumpa Lahiri, as she explores the meaning of book covers. Quite a few years ago when we were in the process of renovating our home, I remember being horrified at the suggestion of an interior designer that I should remove all of the covers from the books in my library. I couldn't imagine anything worse than stripping my beautiful books of their unique identity. Lahiri explores the meaning of book jackets to ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lahiri's essay, clothed as a small book, is a wonderful ode to book covers. I am reminded that sometimes a book cover has as much meaning as the pages within. When I remove a book from my shelf, the worn cover often brings back a sensory rush and I am reminded of the experience of reading that book (even if I can't remember the plot!). ...more
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
This tiny book talks about what the author feels about judging a book by its cover, how readers get swayed by the cover rather than the content of a book; how she feels when her views about the cover of her own books get looked over; how as an author she feels the cover of a book gets more attention/given importance to; how bookcases show off beautiful book jackets; how she herself gets drawn to books just for their covers!

☑️The book is divided into 7 short chapters:

1) The Charm of the Uniform

Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A brief personal meditation on the importance of covers in the book industry
If the writing process is the dream, the cover is waking up.

Jhumpa Lahiri in this book gives some interesting glances on how book covers are created: I had a very romantic idea that this was a synthesis between the author and an artist but everything is nowadays handled through email actually, with the publisher in charge for the most part.
Lahiri shares her personal reflection on the influence book covers have had on he
Anne ✨
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-shorts
Quick read (74 pages/1 hr audio) - insightful 

In this short personal reflection,  Jhumpa Lahiri writes about the complexities of the relationship between books and their covers, author and designer, art and commerce.

It was eye-opening for me to realize just how little input the author is given towards their book covers, and what it must feel like for an author to see their books covererd with so many different designs that they may love or not!

Jhumpa writes a very personal story here. There's so
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before getting into what the book is all about, I wonder why this should have been a book. I mean it is a slightly lengthy essay. At 72 pages - 40 pages if a regular font face and all the space is used - it is the size of a short story. So I felt, at 200 bucks, it was just a money making exercise cashing in on the tremendous popularity of the author. But thinking abt it another way, Jhumpa could have bloated it to say 100+ pages easily if she had so desired. So I guess she had written something ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tiny book (70 something pages) is about the relationship between the words in a book and its cover art. Lahiri's book is derived from a talk she gave in Italy, her adoptive home at least part time, about the import of jacket cover art plays both in the perception of what a certain book is about and how it impacts authors. This doesn't sound like the most scintillating of topics but Lahiri makes it interesting. Her main theses is a broader one about how people are conflicted because they bot ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: art
Forgettable and unimpactful, with way too little research. Read In Other Words instead - you'll even see some of this essay's points repeated there, and better. ...more
Jan 17, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Why do covers exist? First and foremost, to enclose the pages. In centuries past, when books “were rare and precious objects, luxurious materials were used: leather, gold, silver, ivory. Today the role of the cover is more complicated. It now serves to identify the book, to insert it into a style or genre. To embellish it, to make it more effective in the window display of a bookstore. To intrigue passersby so that, once attracted, they come in and pick it up, so that they buy it.”

“I confess to
ARC to review - EPD November 15, 2016.

This slight volume (it was originally presented as a keynote speech given at a festival in Italy in 2015, then expanded) explores book covers and jackets - what they mean to readers and to the writers whose books they cover and it's a fascinating, very thorough explanation of the topic. Early on she notes that often she is forced to accept book covers that she doesn't like and, while does accedes, she is still resentful - it's so interesting that the work i
Richa Bhattarai
A short, interesting work on the cover of books, and the author’s relation to them.

The topics were all intriguing, peppered with anecdotes and examples. Enjoyed reading through the comparisons of a cover with a uniform, the feelings of a new jacket on your hands, the love and resentment towards your own book jackets. The anecdote of Virginia Woolf’s sister designing her book jackets was fascinating. I was also reminded of the series of similar jackets - say, for a Penguin classic - that acts as
Liza Fireman
I loved every book by Jhumpa Lahiri and I read all of them that are stories and novels. I loved the The Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies, The Lowland and Unaccustomed Earth.
I didn't like this one much, and I think it is because she brings a very specific opinion because she is talking about the clothing and covers of her books, and that is always different when someone else creates a cover to something that you created. It is always harder, but I find that I do not share her opinions because I
Karen Germain
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank You to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri's, The Clothing of Books, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- In this short, non-fiction book, award-winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri, explains the process that the publishing industry uses to create book covers. She explores her own feelings on book covers, as both an avid reader and famous author.

LIKE- I'm a huge, huge fan of Lahiri, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to review, The Clothing of Boo
Nancy Abraham
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why was I so captivated by such a banal topic. There were some pretty interesting ideas on a cover/jacket of a book in this analytical yet emotional essay. She touched upon a lot of sides. Thoughts that tag along with them, the process of designing a cover by the artist and successful dissemination of copies to readers. Much of on what a writer goes through, their itch on irrelevant illustrations, defeatism to publishing houses on commercial practices and readers basking their eyes with catchy c ...more
Barbara H
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an intriguing, wafer thin book, which stimulates much thought on a topic which seems of little import. It is based upon a talk which Lahiri had given in Italy, where she had been living. She presented many angles for viewing the purpose and result of book covers. We all know the saying not to “judge a book by its cover”, but most of us do and the author states her case about why this is true.

Many thoughts on the presentation of book covers are given, both negative or positive. Briefly, t
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: by-poc, nonfiction
Surprisingly facile, with an argument that is neither developed nor consistent, and which relies on an almost wilful ignorance of the history of the book, past and present. (To give one brief example: Lahiri claims that Americans’ championing of individualism blocks any attempt of homogeneity in the covers of books produced in the U.S. Yet more romance novels are sold in the U.S. every year than any other genre, and the most cursory glance at the covers of the myriad Harlequin series would neatl ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
There are probably only a very few insightful things anyone could say about book cover design. Lahiri has said them here, and also said several other things. I do judge books by their cover, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. In this case, neither the cover nor what was inside proved to be all that terribly interesting. Still, one or two things I took away to think about.
Nomadic  Musings
Lahiri Says, Dressing a book is an art, there’s no doubt. A published volume sits at the intersection of two forms of creative expression. Every book jacket implies the touch of an artist. And this pairing, this understanding between writer and artists, interests me greatly.

I will be honest with you all. I buy books by looking at cover design and titles all the time. I mean, that’s like the first impression for me. I easily get fascinated by quirky covers and sometimes even plain covers interest
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2016; Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group/Vintage
(Review Not on Blog)

This is a very short book of essays, and Lahiri looks how how books are dressed, and what does clothing mean. I enjoyed having a look and hearing Lahiri's thoughts, but I am not sure I would have read this if it wasn't by an author I am trying to like more.

***I received an eARC from NETGALLEY***
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am one of those people who are very often the cover of a book. Once in a while, I am mentioning in my book reviews, if necessary, aspects related to the cover, because I still think that the cover should be the perfect expression of the book content. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen too often to notice many spectacular book covers, in many cases recognizing the same patterns used for various titles - the most frequent one being the different colour mix used initially for the Big Magic, by Eliz ...more
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It still bothers me a little that I have to read in English something that the author originally wrote in Italian, but ok; this is a short essay about the importance of the cover for the books. and it's really interesting because she points out things about the cover that I never realized or even thought about, and it's funny considering how many books I have at home, but I think that with so many ebooks it can also be understood.

Mi da ancora leggermente fastidio dover leggere in inglese qualcos
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Big fan of the author, but this essay did not impress me.

An unsympathetic reading might conclude "it does not take 60+ pages for an author to establish that authors sometimes feel uncomfortable with the covers given to their books." The most charitable response I had was that I actually do not recall reading about book covers before, though I'm sure I've heard authors discuss them at book signings.

In response to the most obvious question, the section on the Penguin covers was very short -- not l
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Nilanjana Sudeshna "Jhumpa" Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple d

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“The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that a cover is a sort of translation, that is, an interpretation of my words in another language -- a visual one. It represents the text, but isn't part of it. It can't be too literal. It has to have its own take on the book.

Like a translation, a cover can be faithful to at the book, or it can be misleading. In theory, like a translation, it should be in the service of the book, but this dynamic isn't always the case.”
“The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel through the world, on their way to keep an appointment with my readers.

Books come to stand for various episodes in our lives, for certain idealisms, follies of belief, moments of love. Along the way they accumulate our marks, our stains, our innocent abuses, they come to wear our experience of them on their covers and bindings like wrinkles on our skin.

Like every true love, that of the reader is blind.”
More quotes…