Introducing Book Cover Culture
If you’re bilingual, or even multilingual, then sometimes you have the option of reading a book in one language or another. This option presents itself a lot especially if books are often translated into those particular languages. In my case, I understand English and German. Thankfully, a lot of books are translated into German, not only from English but from French, Swedish, Spanish, etc as well.
Most of the time, I read books in English because where I live, these books are the easiest to come by. Also, I read much faster in English than I do in German because I’ve had so much more practice with English over the years. One of the reasons I still want to read German books is to make sure I remain fluent in my mother tongue. Another reason is that some books are only available in German. In those case I don’t exactly have an option anyway.
Occasionally I want to read the German edition of a book over the English edition simply because I like the German book cover more than the English one. Yes, I know linguistic concerns should be far more pressing but language aside, book covers can work wonders when it comes to capturing my heart.
Apparently book covers vary from country to country due to cultural differences that might influence perceptions of book covers. In order to fit into the market, book covers are designed accordingly. This rationale made me curious if particular book covers truly appeal more to people from the countries the covers supposedly cater to.
Since I don’t actually have the resources to determine the links between book covers and cultural contexts, I decided to apply a very unscientific method of picking my favourites and putting preference up for a vote as well. We will see how things progress from here.
This isn’t my first feature based on book covers but UNcover is more about figuring out what a book is about based on the cover. Book Cover Culture is a platform for comparing book covers of translated books.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café
The book I decided to look at for the first round of Book Cover Culture is The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses. I hadn’t actually heard of this book before but the German cover caught my eye when I was looking for ebooks on Onleihe (the German equivalent of Overdrive). Der Sommer der Blaubeeren literally translates as The Summer of the Blueberries.
In terms of the titles, I assumed that the English book was a work of non-fiction. Perhaps a memoir that incorporates recipes. Although on further inspection, that tiny phrase inside the heart, “a novel” should’ve told me otherwise. In fact, when I looked up the German title on The Book Depository and the English title showed up under recommended titles, I was baffled as to why they’d show me a recipe book. Just because both have blueberries in the title? How wrong I was. They’re the same book in different languages. Oops.
Either way, I love the summery vibe of the German edition. It calls out to me so much that I don’t even care about the synopsis. The publisher Blanvalet is big on light fiction (Unterhaltungsliteratur), so that in itself is already a promise to me. Since I love bright colours that pop in photos that have simple compositions, I was sold on the German edition the moment I laid my eyes on its cover.
The US cover however doesn’t capture my attention. For one, cover quotes usually annoy me because they crowd the cover. Thus in my mind, I’ve unapologetically cropped away the top part of the cover. It doesn’t help that the quote cuts into the shape of the heart that is already fading into the background. The colours are somewhat dull to me. Maybe it’s supposed to evoke nostalgia in the viewer, especially with that homemade jam.
As for the fonts, once again I prefer those on the German cover. They are so much cleaner. In fact, I think they blend in very well with the rest of the layout. For the US cover, it seems that they took the photo and then remembered that they need to incorporate the book title and author’s name. I don’t even know why “The” had to have a different font from the rest of the title. That typography basically causes the word to disappear from the cover. Instead of placing the author’s name at the bottom, I think it should’ve been at the top where the cover quote is. It looks so misplaced beneath the blueberries.
German book cover — I wouldn’t even pick up the book based on the US book cover.