By Its Cover

Judging Books by their Looks

"Live by Night" by Dennis Lehane

Hey you.... yes you, you in the fedora, I’m trying to talk to you. Ah, the cold shoulder. Well, fine, have it your way. After all, you’re sitting on the cover of a Dennis Lehane novel; you’ve probably got it all figured out. To me, life at night usually conjures up images of a city’s dimly lit underworld, or at least a kid reading under the covers with a flashlight long after lights out has been called. Yet, here we have a fedora-clad man who sits with his back to us, ostensibly staring out at the un-ironically blurred sepia landscape. As we all could do exactly that by day, I see no reason in tampering with an established circadian rhythm.

"Huddleston Road" by John Toomey

“Look, Ma, I drew you a picture.” “Very good dear, now why don’t you finish coloring it in?” This is the exchange I imagine when I look at the cover of John Toomey’s new book, whose front displays a pen rendering of what appears to be a brownstone. A cloudy blue sky above and a touch of red in the top-right corner of the building are the only spots of color, a sort of flag, French or American—have it as you will. Although my OCD tendencies are a little peeved that the house is not completely colored in, I still feel like I would read this book—judging from its cover, of course.

"The Beach at Galle Road" by Joanna Luloff


A beach at sunset. An expanse of sand and palm trees black against the setting sun. A solitary figure promenades along the water, parasol in hand. Not a Jimmy Buffett song, unfortunately. Instead, you’re looking at the cover of Joanna Luloff’s new collection of Sri Lankan stories, “The Beach at Galle Road.” Although the front blurb proclaims Luloff’s book as a “wise and profoundly moving debut,” the inherently clichéd cover hardly merits the same praise. But, I will say, the more I stare at it, the more I wish I were walking along the beautiful Sri Lankan coast rather than sitting at my desk in rainy Cambridge.

—Staff writer Sophie E. Heller can be reached at


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