Why you should read every hardcover with the book jacket OFF

(Besides not wanting to crinkle, bend, bruise or blemish the lovely jacket, of course.)

One of my favorite parts about buying a new book is peeling off the jacket and seeing what’s underneath. Many times, the jacket-less version of a book is not terribly exciting. A plain front, a title and author on the spine, and that’s it. But sometimes, the naked book is so beautiful and surprising and thought-out that it rivals its shiny shell. I’m talking gorgeous colors, embossing, textures and additional design elements, all hiding behind the jacket and waiting to be discovered.

Still not convinced? Let’s look at some examples, shall we? On first glance, these books are quite lovely, with flashy, attention-grabbing covers:

So what makes their jacket-less state so beautiful?

» Color

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

This book could have been black or blue or red or yellow or any number of colors in the world. But it is the color of rust, which could not be a more fitting match for this book and it’s subject.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Not just one color, but two! The cover a glorious eggplant purple, the spine binding, a rich red. The two-color combo and that lovely argyle pattern impressed in the cover became a format for the series. They become identifiers. Teal and purple? Prisoner of Azkaban. Navy and gray? Order of the Phoenix. Olive and gold? Deathly Hallows. <3


» Secondary Cover Art

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A minimal and simplistic cover that mirrors interior pages. Stark black, with a knocked out frame. I prefer this version. It’s as if it is a canvas, waiting for Brian to show up fill it with illustrations.


Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The girl that’s peeking through the type on the cover? You can see her plain as day if you just take the jacket off.


» Interior Jacket Design

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

If you don’t take the jacket off this book, you’d never realize that is reversible. Or that the other cover includes a detailed diagram of Godspeed, the larger-than-life ship that is practically a character in this story.


Thirteen Reasons Why, with and without jacket
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The inside of this jacket is a map of Clay’s hometown, presumably the one that Hannah marked up and included with the box of tapes she sent from classmate to classmate. Something about this makes her story feel more concrete.


» Embossing / Foil Stamping

The Hunger Games, with and without jacket
The Hunger Games by Suzzane Collins

Even when I read this for the first time, the simple foil stamping had an impact on me. I did not know it was a mockingjay, or that it would become an iconic symbol in Katniss’ life and the future of her country. But I knew it was important. Graceful yet fierce. Intense and powerful, especially in the jacket-less version where nothing distracts from its form.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, with and without jacket
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I haven’t read this yet, but I have peeked under the jacket. And that name, Alma LeFay Peregrine, is the only thing on the cover. What does it mean? Is it the Miss Peregrine the title refers to? Oh, the mystery! The intrigue!


Divergent, with and without jacket
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Chicago’s skyline is unsettling, and the Dauntless flame, well daunting, but I find that faction emblem stamped on the cover more captivating. Like the mockingjay on the Hunger Games cover, it demands your attention, and its simplicity almost says more than the actual jacket.


» Final Words

If keeping your cover in pristine shape plus all these examples still hasn’t convinced you, I’ll say just this: Books feels better in your hands when that jacket isn’t sliding and flapping all over. Trust me. Go naked.

Know another book that has a surprise waiting for you underneath the jacket? Tell me about it in the comments! I’m a sucker for design!

And a quick reminder: I am giving away a copy of THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND, and you can enter to win through Monday. It’s a beautiful book that should absolutely be on your shelf. Details here.

42 Responses
  1. I love this! Loved the pictures you shared as well. 🙂 I completely agree with you about taking the jackets off and seeing what’s underneath. And you have one of my favorite jackets listed here–Across The Universe.

    Great post!

    1. Erin

      Thanks, Britney. I loved AtU as well, and the inside of that jacket is incredible! I loved being able to see how my idea of Godspeed compared to the actual diagram.

  2. Now I want to go home and explore my jacketless hardcovers (and look for reverse jacket designs!). I definitely agree, though — I often prefer books without their jackets. Sometimes because the jackets are… not great, but also because I love the matte finish and adore embossing.

    1. Erin

      Yes, I encourage you to dig through your bookshelf and rip off those covers. Something is bound to surprise you! (And ditto on the matte finishes and embossing)

    1. Erin

      Oh, I haven’t read I Am Number Four. Now I’ll have to pick it up, or at least peek under the jacket next time I’m in a bookstore 🙂

  3. i read with the jacket covers off mostly because it’s a bit of a hassle reading with the jacket slipping off all the time. 😀

    also, dude, delirium’s jacket-less version is GORGEOUS<3

    1. Erin

      Yes, exactly. Jackets are always slipping and crinkling and being a nuisance.

      Delirium surprised me so much when I took the jacket off, I think I audibly gasped.

  4. Yes, gorgeous! I love it especially when the title (or image, as the Dauntless flame works so brilliantly) is gilded into the cover. It makes it feel so special.

    Anyway, you’ve proven to me yet another reason why e-books won’t ever be able to fully replace hard copies. 🙂

    1. Erin

      e-books will probably start coming with exclusive content, in order to differentiate them. I always though author notations would be interesting. Sort of like director commentary on DVDs, only these would be notes and comments scribbled in the margins that you could turn on and off. Maybe they have this already. What do I know — I never buy e-books 🙂

  5. I adore this post so much!

    I rarely read with the book jackets off, unless it’s a frequent re-read (i.e. HUNGER GAMES), in which case I tend to buy the paperback just so I wouldn’t damage the hardcovers. But these are so gorgeous.

    I’m going to go through all my book jackets now! 🙂

  6. Love this! I always take the jacket off because it’s more comfortable (like you said) but I actually found myself referring back to the visual aides on the jackets of both Thirteen Reasons Why and Across the Universe as I read. And Delirium is sitting in my To-Read pile and I had no idea what was under that jacket… can’t wait to check it out for myself. 🙂

    1. Erin

      I referenced the covers a lot with 13 and AtU, too! They helped me better visualize the story, although sometimes I wonder what my brain would have dreamed up without them…

    1. Erin

      I always end up sticking random things in place for bookmarks — receipts, napkins, gum wrappers — because I leave the cover on the shelf. And that’s so far away! haha.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I glad I’m not the only one. I always read hardcovers without the jacket because I don’t want to ripe them. You should check out German hardcovers if you every get the chance because the book isn’t just a plain colour like the US versions. I just got Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden and the book looks pretty much the same without the jacket, except there is no barbwire heat. You can see what I mean on YouTube where a German reviewer shows it at the 0:35 mark: http://youtu.be/OZzxH9T3CoE

    Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed in German looks good too: http://nightingale-blog.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/G%C3%B6ttlich-verdammt_Cover_Einband.jpg

    1. Erin

      Hi, Petra. I love those examples you linked to! I had no idea German covers were handled so differently! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Erin

      I have not read FASHIONISTA. But now I’ll have to pick it up, and peek under the jacket while I’m at it! Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  8. Rachael

    Now I really want to go through all my hardcover books and take the jackets off to see if there’s anything underneath. I read all the Harry Potter books with jackets off (they got in the way while I was constantly rereading the series) but since then I’ve been reading with jackets on.

    I knew about Divergent’s cover, but I didn’t even notice the girl inside of the words on Delirium’s until I saw it here with the jacket off. Wow.

    1. Erin

      Oh, I know what you mean about Harry. I’ve read those books so many times that even the hardcovers are starting to show wear and tear.

      Also, I highly recommend digging through your bookshelf. I’m sure there will be a few in there that surprise you, just like Delirium! 🙂

  9. Great post, Erin! Now I want to go through my bookshelves and look.

    And now I’m totally curious about what MY book will look like naked. I wonder what color it will be? I have no idea! I kind of want it to be pink now. 🙂

    1. Erin

      YES! Go through your bookshelf. I encourage this.

      I am SO excited to see what Born Wicked will look like under the jacket! (I’ll keep my fingers crossed for pink too!) 🙂

  10. Thanks for letting me know about Across the Universe and Divergent. I read both from library editions so I never even got to take the dust jackets off like I usually do. To add to your list I’d like to suggest the Lorien Legacies series. I Am Number Four has an excellent cover under the dust jacket, as does the sequel which I got in the mail today.

    1. Erin

      Libraries are generally wonderful, but the inability to take of a dust jacket really does put a damper on things. Thank you for your additions, too! I’m off to google them and see if I can’t get a peek 🙂

  11. I always take my hardcover jackets off since they are easier to carry around that way. I love these examples! I had no idea 13 Reasons Why had a map inside! I read the library edition of that one. 🙂

  12. Kjay

    Wow so pretty!!! After this I took off the dust jacket of my hardcover copy of inkheart expecting something really pretty….and it was exactly the same as the dust jacket. *sigh* At least my copy of Mockingjay is pretty!

  13. Lynn

    Thanks for sharing the lovelies! I have never seen the under the dust jackets of the books above before because the ones I have are either in paperbacks/ebooks or the wrapped up library ones. I especially like the ones for Delirium and Across the Universe. /o/

  14. Brenda

    I’ve only just gotten back into reading, and your selection looks very interesting. I’ve added many of them to my Amazon shopping cart. I’m a no-jacket kind of girl, myself. I recently picked up a box of antique books from a thrift store, and none of them have jackets. They’re gorgeous.

  15. AnxiousBibliophile

    I adore getting hardback books, for this very reason. Plus, especially for travel, you don’t run the risk of tearing or messing up the dust jacket! I know a lot of folks have gone over to the e-reader, and that’s ok- but nothing is better than the feel of a BOOK. an actual book. Agreed- the hardcover CAN be even better than the jacket- or at least a really nice compliment! Great blog!!!

  16. Phoenixliv

    My copy of “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green has his autograph embossed into the front cover … It’s from his box set.

  17. Noelle H.

    I’ve tried this only once before to find a “message” written on the actual front cover of the book by one of the main characters of the book. You never know what your book may be hiding ;).

  18. isabel

    if you love dust covers and what’s underneath them, you should check out the most recent mirukami novel. it’s got a wonderful jacket and underneath part

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