Thursday, May 29, 2014

Judging a Book by its Cover -or- Knowing a Good Nut from Bad

You've heard the saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover."
It's a metaphor about prejudice. Not concerning race but strictly appearance. My dad used to say, "You can tell what a book is about by its cover. You can tell if it's a romance or science fiction, a mystery or horror. That's what a cover is for." So, can you judge a book by its cover? Not quite. You can't tell whether the book is good or not.

I originally wanted to write this post concerning peanuts. I love peanuts in the shell. I can't go to a baseball game without having a bag. Anyway, I noticed that you couldn't tell what the nut inside was going to taste like by the way the shell looked. Sometimes you can, but not always. Sometimes the prettiest, perfectly colored, flawlessly shaped shell contains a bad fruit. Other times, an ugly discolored shell holds the most enjoyable nut. After a lifetime of eating peanuts, I am better at finding the good and bad peanuts. However, even with my experience, I can still be wrong. I really hate it when the nut I save for last, thinking it would be the most delicious, turns out to be the bad nut. I misjudged and now I'm left with a sour taste in my mouth.

Then I realized the metaphor I wanted to create was already contained in the judging a book by its cover saying.

With books, you can sort of tell what it's about from the cover, but can you tell if it's any good. Does a poorly crafted cover mean a poorly written book? Does a beautiful cover mean the writing inside is just as elegant or enticing. Not necessarily. My dad was right. You can judge a book by its cover, but the saying was wrong. It's been said different ways. It's not that you "can't" judge a book by its cover, it's that you "shouldn't."

It's the same with people. Sometimes the nice looking, impeccably groomed person can be the most deceitful. And the oddest person, the one you might avoid eye contact with, might just be the one that would do anything to help others. Maybe. Maybe not.

But what about books. How can you tell? I guess you'll just have to open it up and see if the first words compel you on to sentences, then paragraphs, and eventually chapters. So next time you're in your local book store, (or church, or wherever) take a look at the person you might ordinarily avoid. Give 'em a smile and see what happens.

Have you ever judged a book by its cover, only to find out you were wrong? What book was it? Or who was it? What misled you?

And while you’re here, go ahead and throw the peanut shells on the floor. I'll sweep 'em up later.