Judging By Appearance (books and people)

I was in my local used bookstore the other day, looking for more titles for our adult bookwagon borrowers. The store had the kind of sensible shelves that presented the books face on. And I, despite my years of schooling, affection for reflective thought, and long-time experience with novels... I was happily judging books by their covers.

Is anything more foolish than judging a book by it's cover? Probably, but it's still a pretty dumb thing to do.

And yet, it's so easy! Which of these would you rather read:

I surprised a learner the other day by showing him that most novels have a short summary or preview on the back cover. "It tells you what the story is about," I said. "That way," and here the words slid effortlessly off my tongue, "you won't be judging books by their covers."

Physician, heal thyself.

And, you know, it's not just books. I have this problem with people too. Three times in the past couple of months I've over-estimated people's confidence and skill sets on the basis of their outward appearance. (One lady, how her hands shook! She hid them under the table, and I almost didn't notice.) Come into my room well-dressed, smiling, conventionally polite, and I'll be handing you textbooks on rocket physics and asking for short essays on early Elizabethan poetry. (But how fragile people can be! How very fragile, no matter how tough they talk!)

Why am I like that? Bad upbringing, I suppose. Too much tv. Something.

The only bright side is that I hardly ever underestimate people's confidence and skill sets because they dress, er, like me. So I'm not, like, some pathetic clothes snob.


Judging - books or people - by mere appearance is an unattractive trait in a literacy worker, or a human being.

I need to do better.


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