Judging Books That Have Been Judged By Their Covers

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The design gurus over at AIGA just released their picks for the best book covers of the past year, which got us wondering: are the books with the coolest covers the best books? We dug up reviews of a few to find out. Turns out that having a good cover is a lot like being on E!’s best-dressed list after the Oscars: a cool nod, but not the same as actually winning a statue for a performance. After the jump are a few of the “best-dressed” books, with their accompanying critical commentary.

Booklist on Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “Richardson is companionable, but he is no deep thinker. His chronicle lacks historical context and metaphysical understanding, yet, like a well-maintained motorcycle, it carries you forward into shadow and sunlight.”

Publishers Weekly on Security: “The reader stands by for the human catastrophe that will inevitably ensue, but despite its nuanced depiction of smalltown life and propulsive plotting, the novel fails to achieve a truly tragic dimension.”

Booklist on The Way through Doors “The Way through Doors is heady stuff. It’s charming, lyrical, fanciful, and funny, and it invites a suspension of disbelief that may be a tonic for our parlous times.”

Publishers Weekly on The Mayor’s Tongue : “Rich is an impressive stylist, but this debut’s whole ends up less than the sum of its disparate parts, which a surprise ending fails to unify.”

The New Yorker on The Night of the Gun: “His journalistic skills are on full display as he works to excavate the truth from his often hazy memories. He evinces genuine remorse for his frequently reprehensible behavior and succeeds in creating something more than merely another entry in what he terms the “growing pile of junkie memoirs.”