Gendered Book Covers

Author Maureen Johnson kept hearing from male readers asking for less “girly” covers on her books, so that they could read them in public. She, too, had been frustrated by how books written by women so often got cheesy covers that made them seem less literary and of lower quality. So, she issued a challenge on Twitter: She asked people to choose a well-known book and imagine that the author was of the opposite gender. “There were hundreds of replies within 24 hours,” she said. Take a look…
See more here…Interesting, right?

P.S. Great book covers, and I do like this cover for Jane Eyre.

(Via The Huffington Post)

  1. CC says...

    This is definitely really interesting. I do understand the variation of covers to help with the marketing but I think it is poor judgement on our part to make it into yet another female/male or feminine/masculine dichotomy.

  2. i don’t know about book covers but i do know that this book is one of my favorites. i was fortunate enough to attend a literary evening with jeffrey, he speaks so well. i remember him saying that we love people the way our favorite characters have loved – think about this for a moment. it’s really an interesting thing – romantic in a way but also scary. personally, i think it’s quite true and has made my idea of love a bit impractical.

    have a lovely day! oh and the lettering on the first cover is gorgeous!

  3. This is cool. I don’t like girly covers either. Somehow they make even the best litreature look trashy!

  4. This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  5. the same thing happens for American Asian authors — their book covers often suggest something of exotic eastern chic, and often the face is obscured or turned away. the western idea of asian, I suppose. book sellers are thinking of buyers, but indeed, given the comments here, they would lose a lot with the styling if always gender or ethic type-cast.

  6. All great books. Loved The Marriage Plot, by the way – a real must-read!

  7. so amazing. thank you for posting. it’s become sort of weirdly taboo to say that sexism is alive and well but this illustrates perfectly the fact that oh yes it is (as does shopping for toddler underpants, but that’s another story).

  8. How funny to see the differences. That second cover of The Marriage Plot is just too much! It looks just like a Harlequin Romance. Loved that book but I think that cover might haven driven me away if I wasn’t already a fan of Eugenides.

    xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

  9. Speaking as the employee of a publishing company, most of the time we are well aware of the audience of the book and we design the covers as such. Interestingly enough, the company I work for is based in London and we fight constantly for more “American” covers. We know that the stark covers we’re often forced to use because of our British owners are off putting to many American consumers. It’s a pretty fascinating process!

  10. I am actually embarrassed by the “female” covers! Horrifying! But I am also the type of person that will search high and low for a book cover that DOES NOT say “now a major motion picture” or “anniversary edition.”

  11. my friend designed the neil gaiman cover. woo monica!

  12. I have always wanted to read Kerouac novel. I hope this year!

  13. Wow, this is super awesome. Really makes you laugh in a slightly horrified way!

  14. Hello nice post, Thanks for providing such useful information. Reliable painters for all your needs. Whether for internal painting, external painting, Service Central will find a qualified, reliable painter for you in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or anywhere. Painters

  15. So disappointing! I definitely prefer the “male” covers as a female. ;)

  16. Nice blog. Wanna have fun on the web. Visit:

  17. Haha, so true! It’s so hard not to judge a book by it’s cover… I love it when a book has a couple of different covers so the reader can choose which one to buy. It’s like an accessory when you’re reading in public :P
    Cong ty bao ve

  18. This is brilliant! Love On the Road what a difference. I was just thinking about this reading Beautiful Ruins, I was so surprised at first to see that it was written by a man based on the cover.

  19. Wow, I found this really intriguing! Obviously you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’m sure everyone’s guilty of it from time to time…

  20. I love this! I will absolutely admit to “judging a book by its cover” and creeping around bookstores looking at the less than desirable books.

    It’s funny, I wrote a post a few months ago discussing my own general attraction to aesthetically pleasing books, which can be seen here: (shameful, I know).

    But, back on topic, I think its easier to take a book serious if it presents itself as something intelligent and not the flimsy chick-lit books. Also, that first book? The one with the retro-ish text and general awesomesauce? Love it. I would totally buy that, but I would more than likely pass the other option up.

  21. As a woman who does sometimes judge a book by its cover (don’t lie…plenty of you do it too), I have also been turned off by book covers that resemble too closely my mother in law’s cheap romance novels. I think some of this stems from being an English major in college – I didn’t want to be seen reading “airport fiction” or “trashy romance novels.” So while I DO KNOW BETTER, I can see their point. Except for when it comes to Chelsea Handler’s books. I don’t care what people think – that shit is hilarious!

  22. Super interesting concept. I’ve always thought stuff like this when choosing books to read. Honestly, even as a woman, when books have incredibly feminine covers I’m a little put off because of the stigma behind them.
    Side note: The Marriage Plot disappointed me in comparison to his other works.

  23. jm says...

    This is so interesting. I love that Jane Eyre cover, too. Great post – love your blog.

  24. On The Road is one of my favorite books, so it’s pretty interesting to see it portrayed in that way. I really like the idea of making books with gender-neutral covers. Even as a girl, I tend to stay away from books with feminine-looking covers.

  25. Remember in school, how you would take paper bag and craft it into a book cover for your text books? I do this for books I’m reading in pubic too, whether the cover art is embarrassing or not. There’s little worse than trying to read and having people constantly come up to you interrupting to comment on your choice of reading material; because they have read it or are considering reading it and want your opinion. If I wanted to chat, I wouldn’t have brought a book! :P

  26. e. says...

    Dear all of my non book loving friends,
    This is exactly why I have so many copies of the same book… the artwork on the covers are almost as interesting as the plot! Collecting old books is so much fun – so many different interpretations. I especially like finding the European versions. Nice post Cup of Jo –

  27. This is spot on. I have always detested the girly versions of things – ski jackets, sneakers, bike helmets, etc. I never really thought about book covers before, though I can say that I definitely do skip over the “girly” ones because they look like they’ll be poorly written. I’m an American Lit major and should know better, but branding is a powerful thing.

    By the way, did you see that Wikipedia has separated male and female American authors?

  28. It’s the same thing with SciFi books. There’s one SciFi book I picked up when I was in the UK that had a classy cover, but the same book, by the same authour, in America was totally geeky… and not in a cool hipster geeky find of way… geeky in a still living in your mom’s basement find of way.
    Look it up I dare you Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon. I wouldn’t be caught dead with the US cover, but the UK cover would proudly be displayed on my book shelf.

  29. awesome! this is interesting to think about, isn’t it?! i’d also like to see a guy not be ashamed of reading a book with flowers on the cover. i’m not ashamed to read a book with a “masculine” cover.
    kw ladies in navy

  30. How interesting! I do feel as though some book covers are grossly gendered. I am also often guilty of buying one copy of a book over another based on the cover. . . I’ve even picked an entirely different book because of covers. It’s sad, but true. I suppose Kindles and iPads have somewhat solved this issue, but it still seems to be an issue. I often see a glossy book cover and immediately dismiss it as poor writing /not of great literary merit. It’s horrible, but so easy to do.

  31. ha, this made me giggle a bit. men not wanting to read the girly covers. figures, but seriously one cover can completely change whether it’s bought or not.


    • So true. And it’s not just about gender. Recently, there was an article in The Times about versions of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio on the cover. While it could help renew interest in the book, the article’s author seems to side with the opinion that people will not want to be seen reading a book with that cover. Best quote: “‘I think it would bring shame,’ [the bookseller] said, ‘to anyone who was trying to read that book on the subway.'” (

  32. I was reading this article this morning. Some of the covers made me laugh, but the whole thing is quite sobering isn’t it?

  33. Love the photo on the last one. Ahhhh Freedom! Never read the book but love the cover.

    • The photographer’s name is Rosie Hardy if you are interested in seeing more of her work :-)

  34. That is so interesting — really makes you think about the whole don’-judge-a-book-by-its-cover mentality.

  35. Oh man, that re-imagined cover for Franny and Zooey wants to make me gouge my eyes out. The alternative versions of these only serve to emphasize how good (and much better!) the original designs are! Not to mention the silliness of the conventions that accompany the gendered stereotypes.

  36. I don’t think I’d read some of those ‘girly’ covers and probably wouldn’t have bought The Marriage Plot if it had either of those covers. The one I bought is probably still a little girly though now that I think about it..

  37. This is very interesting! I like it!

  38. this is surprising somehow?

  39. Haha, so true! It’s so hard not to judge a book by it’s cover… I love it when a book has a couple of different covers so the reader can choose which one to buy. It’s like an accessory when you’re reading in public :P

  40. Oh wow! That’s super interesting… thanks for sharing :)

    • On a different note, the “masculine” covers are decidedly better than the “female” covers in terms of their graphic design. Much more sophisticated.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • very true! and it doesn’t seem fair, does it? like women are supposed to be reading frilly and stupid books, eh? I always felt embarrassed to be reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in public, which IS chick lit, but it’s so good!