Judge a Book by its Cover: Still Lives by Maria Hummel

This is the second installment of my posts that make an attempt to guess what the book is about and whether it would be worth reading – just based on the cover.

We have all heard that phrase: “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And we all know what it means, that value and worth is often found beneath the surface, and beauty/appeal shouldn’t be taken at face value. But when it comes to actual books, we absolutely judge them by their covers. That’s the great irony of the phrase, creating and marketing books effectively can come down to an appealing cover – something that sells and draws the attention of a book buyer. Publishing companies want you to judge a book by its cover. I’m going to give them what they want.

This blog post category will be structured with my interpretation and judgement of the book based only on its cover and any background information that I already have, then I will give you guys a brief summary (no spoilers!) about what the book is really about. Let’s do this!

This week’s book:

Still Lives by Maria Hummel


My predictions based on the cover:

  • I haven’t heard of this author before – but this is a book picked by Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I bet it’s geared toward a female audience.
  • There are a lot of women faces on the cover and the color scheme is dramatic
  • The “shattered mirror” concept of the cover seems to imply that the book may be about broken relationships – maybe female ones or a marriage
  • I think that amounts of time will pass in this book, maybe seeing some character growth
  • The main character is a woman – maybe a mother – who is trying to find who she really is
  • There might be a crime – maybe theft or murder
  • the boyfriend/spouse/best friend is not who they seem to be
  • international travel
  • The main character may work at a magazine, publishing company, makeup corporation, or art gallery
  • some sort of Kardashian-like angle: rich characters, metropolitan lifestyle, celebrity


What the book is actually about:

Quoted from the publisher:

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women―the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others―and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala.

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

  • I was right that there are secrets – but it seems the book is a straight-up thriller/mystery
  • There are definitely friends and lovers who may not be who they appear to be on the surface
  • I love the idea that the main character’s art pieces are self-portraits of the artist as murdered women – totally goes along with this new analysis of the fetish of the “dead girl”
  • I nailed that the setting was a very Kardashian-like world of wealth and privilege – including that the art gallery world may be involved.
  • Definitely involves a crime!
  • Marketing is definitely for a female audience
  • The summery of the book is more intriguing than the cover – but when put together, the dramatic color scheme and women’s faces of the cover is even more powerful.