You Judge That Book By Its Cover

So, a long while ago, I decided that whole "don't judge a book by its cover" nonsense was just that; nonsense. My first outright disobedience to this archaic piece of wisdom proved very rewarding and since then I've never looked back. So as I scan my shelves looking for my next adventure, I start to look at books I've already devoured and and how much impact their cover had on my reading experience.

The first book that jumps out is The Art of Racing in the Rain. The story is about an old dog named Enzo who knows he is going to die (since he's getting up there in years) and all he wants is to be reincarnated as a racecar driver, like his owner Denny. It's a fine book. A quick read that is just right for someone who loves dogs or someone who is mildly fond of racing. But we're here to discuss the cover. If you haven't read the book, there's a (sorta) spoiler below, so just be warned. So, let's check out the differences, shall we?

The book on the left was what I saw throughout my reading experience. This cover of the book is very different from the new, more playful cover of the paperback version on the right. The second did not appear until long after I had closed the pages, and it got me wondering. How would I have read this book differently if Enzo had been looking at me like that? Probably very differently.

The dog on the left is looking away, unaware he's being seen. He's an adult and quite possibly old. There is no joy or happiness or puppy-ness on his face and instead he just looks tired. The dog on the right is engaging me; ears perked up, eyes on me, he looks curious as to what I am about to do. He may not be a puppy any longer, but he certainly looks young at heart.

Here's our spoiler: Enzo dies. Yes, I'm sure we all expected it to happen, but knowing can make it rough. Enzo knows it's coming but he's wishing for a happy reincarnation and a way back into Denny's life. The dog on the left prepared me for sadness; every time Enzo had an accident, was left abandoned or was in pain, my heart ached for him. I wish I would have been able to read it with the dog on the right greeting me. A dog that portrays optimism, hope, youthfulness and exuberance. This dog would have made the accidents, abandoning and pain a requisite necessity on his journey to a brighter (and hopefully faster) existence.

I wonder how Stein feels about his covers and if he knows what a somber overtone the looking-away Enzo cast over the reading experience. Perhaps that is why our new covers greet us cheerfully. But I know for certain that I wish the first time I read this book I was greeted by our youthful Enzo; perhaps then the feeling of subdued hopefulness would have easier to hold on to. Perhaps I'll pick the book up again, but if I do, you can bet I'm grabbing one of these sunnier and more adventurous covers!

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