photo by Jo Szczepanska

We’re all familiar with the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This applies to used books too. The scuffs, scrapes, and tears acquired by books have no bearing on the quality of the content inside. If anything, the fact these old books have weathered hard times and survived is a testament to their enduring strength. We salute all old books, who bravely faced coffee stains, rainy days, cramped luggage, and the occasional overly rambunctious child or pet.

Still, we should do our best to keep these gems safe and protected. One tried and true method of accomplishing this is through book covers or dust jackets. Like a phone case, a good dust jacket can extend a book’s lifespan, especially for vulnerable paperbacks. It provides an extra layer of security between the world your favorite stories.

There are some naysayers out there that dislike dust jackets or covering books in general. Understandable. We all have our preferences. The elegant simplicity of a naked book can serve an aesthetic purpose that enhances the reading experience. But suppose you are in the habit of reading outside the home, traveling with books, or have a habit of knocking over beverages. It can’t hurt to provide a little extra coverage. Not to mention that protecting your books is considerate in case there is a future owner. Plus, you always reserve the right to remove it and proudly display it was originally intended.

Now you could purchase a cover or take the more adventurous route and make one yourself. As a reader, you’re up for a good adventure, right? It’s a great way to customize your copy and make it your own. It makes for a creative afternoon activity for young children (great excuse to get them away from a screen) with parent supervision, of course, as there is some cutting. Often schools require students to cover schoolbooks to ensure reuse and longevity, so it’ll be good practice for later.

The inspiration for this week’s blog comes from an old copy of Franny and Zooey I have on hand. I made the poor choice of leaving it unprotected in an old, leaky building. As a result, a mysterious stain formed that won’t go away, even with gentle soap and water. Unfortunately, I can’t rewind the clock and reverse the damage. I can, however, help save the book from future damage. This design is a slight variation on the classic paper bag cover. Don’t worry, no overly expensive materials are required!

What you will need:

  • A book in need of a little TLC
  • Paper to cover your book (it should be at least 5 inches wider and taller than your book)
  • Card stock (optional)
  • An X-ACTO knife or scissors
  • A ruler or straight edge
  • A pencil

Step 1: Prepare the paper

Place your book in the center of your paper. Make a mark on the paper at the top and the bottom of the binding corners of the book. Using a ruler, draw a line across horizontal from each mark, as shown below. Then fold along these lines.

Step 2: Spine Time

Roughly measure out the center of your paper lengthwise and place the book’s spine on this line. Mark the edge of the spine on each side. Give yourself a little wiggle room here. You don’t want the cover to be too snug. Draw vertical lines from each mark and then fold. And there’s your spine!

Step 3: Pockets

Now that you have your spine defined, place your book inside your jacket. This part is simple. Just fold the paper around the book cover, keeping a wiggle room in mind. Do this for each side. You should now have little pockets in which to place the corners open of your book.

Step 4: Support

Grab some card stock, an old cereal box, or anything you have lying around the house that’s sturdy. Cut two pieces of your material slightly smaller than the front and back of your jacket. Place them inside for extra support. If you’re wrapping a hardcover, you can skip this step.

Step 5: You Decide

Now you have a homemade jacket! All you need to do now is decide how to label and decorate it. Do you want a simple title or a million stickers? It’s a blank canvas, so feel free to go nuts. If you need inspiration, Discover Books has a wide assortment of arts and crafts books to fill your head with enough ideas for your whole library! And remember, this tutorial is just a starting point. Feel free to modify steps and experiment. We’d love to see your creations. Post them to Instagram (@discoverbooks, @letthestoriesliveon), so others can see your beautiful book covers. Have fun and stay crafty.

FYI, Franny and Zooey can be purchased here. has all your craft and reading needs at the lowest prices and free shipping on orders of $12 or more to the lower 48 states.

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