It all started, I suspect, with Melissa Bank’s 1999 best-selling novel-in-stories, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing and its striking cover photo by Peter Davidian. This was the prototypical chick lit title that helped kick off a very lucrative fiction genre, and it put its best foot forward with an image of a single gal dressed for the elements, from her ear-flapped cap to her sturdy black rain boots. And since that epochal moment in publishing, the rain boot (or galoshes, or — for the Anglophiles out there — Wellingtons) has provided book shoppers a quick visual signal that the contents should contain a hardy soul prepared for anything, including stormy weather in the romance department. In other words, it’s become a cliché, one that’s popped up on the covers of everything from Po Bronson’s 1995 nonfiction collection Why Do I Love These People? to Marisa de los Santos’ 2008 novel Belong to Me.

But in the last couple months, the wellies seem to have, well, mushroomed — particularly on the jackets of books that share a sort of chick-littish vibe. Why are publishers rubber-stamping this proliferation of rubber footwear? And what the heck is going on with the sloppily PhotoShopped rodents on Holly Robinson’s ridiculously titledmemoir, The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter? Let’s just say that that cover has none of the elegance of the hedgehog…