Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ugliest Book Cover: Year 2

when two friends spend the day together,
the table might look like this

So one of the things that I do at the library is to weed the collection. Although I didn't go into librarianship because I like to kill books, space is finite and writers keep writing more books, so one of our tasks is to remove books with a set of specific criteria in mind.
  • First, I use a list generated by the circulation software that we can set parameters for: like if the book hasn't circulated in X years, if the book was added more than X years ago, etc.
  • Second, I use The Fiction Catalog by H.W. Wilson, a big bible sort of book that tells us what books are worth keeping (lots of caveats what if it's by a local author but not in the book? what if we are a tiny library by comparison and just plain don't have the space to keep every book that every classic author wrote?)
  • Third, I look at condition (of every book, not just the ones on the list): is it torn, musty, ugly, unappealing, water damaged?
  • Fourth, I check our statewide catalog to see how many other libraries have the book. I look at how many times it circulated and when was the last time. I consider its position in a series, if applicable.
  • Fifth, the library director and I conference about each and every book. Some get replaced. Some get withdrawn. Sometimes we discuss the idea of modern graphic design as it relates to older covers. Some books get put back on the shelf (a reprieve!) because of their relative merit.
So I am the grim reaper who wheels her cart into the stacks and makes the books flap their worn out pages in fear.

And I will tell you that, in this work, I have come to feel a little tetchy about authors who crank their books out at 1 or 2 a year and take up more than their fair share of shelf space, and who are NEVER on my list because they are so popular. I am always a little thrilled (in a guilty way) when I discover that one of these books is falling apart---HA! Robert Parker, take that! (If the Parker books had regular size margins instead of 1.5" I might have more pity.) Oh and by the way, if you happen to write books and have a last name that begins with "P" please consider choosing a pseudonym because Mr. Parker and Mr. Patterson and Ms. Perry and Ms. Peters are already filling the shelves to bursting. A "Q" name would work great.

I also come across some books that get into the running for Ugliest Book Cover. We are in the second year of this prize, somehow almost exactly a year! And nothing could really beat last year's winner, but you can't have leeches on toenails every time.

Entry 1: copyright 1972

Entry 2: 1960
(go Harvard University Press!)

You may submit your vote in the comments section.


  1. Science and Government. And not totally just because of the bald guy, but also because of the wonderfully awkward spacing of the title. The other book I could excuse for being an example of that minimalist thing I seem to remember during 1972...the year I graduated high school. And the leeches from last year, good call!

  2. Iris I'm sorry but nothing, ever, ever, ever could beat last year's winner. But still, Science and Government and an old bald bloke with miopia and a couple of chins might make a decent attempt.

  3. wow, those are pretty ugly... it's hard to decide. i think my vote goes to entry 2 though. if you're going to put a photo on a cover, at least choose a good one. in this case they shouldn't have bothered. and the leeches... i experienced 7 weeks of leeches on toes, not to mention every other body part, in a forest in borneo. very gross.