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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/07/16 Permalink
    Tags: book covers, , , , , looking sharp, ,   

    The 10 Best Book Covers of All Time 

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    We’d open this post with the obligatory joke about judging books by their covers—but we all do judge books by their covers. For better or worse, it’s our first impression of the author’s work—and a great cover will make us pick up a book as fast as a poor one will make us put it aside.

    That pressure to stand out inspires a lot of creativity among publishers, and every year, some truly amazing covers are designed. Yet only a few truly penetrate into pop culture to become iconic—perpetually recognizable, often imitated. Here are 10 of the best book covers of all time.

    Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney

    Whether you’re interested in a thousand-year old poem written in Old English or Seamus Heaney’s crisp, brilliant translation of what may be the oldest poem in something considered English, chances are you at least stopped to pick up this book when you saw the cover. The intensity of the image conveys horror, violence, and strangeness effortlessly, with the end result being that somewhat more people are familiar with this strange epic poem than before this cover hit the shelves.

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    May this cover never to retired. Created by Spanish artist Francis Cugat for the book’s initial printing, it pretty much is the book now, visually-speaking. Its success stems from its haunting, haunted nature, its surrealism, and the way it captures the mood of the book: the sad, weary eyes floating insubstantially over what could be an overheated, decadent party.

    The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
    Simple and stark, this cover, created by S. Neil Fujita, conveys the rotten power Puzo examines, even as it intrigues the potential reader. It could just as easily be the cover to a horror novel—which isn’t actually that far off the mark, if you think about it. There aren’t too many book covers that create what’s essentially a brand logo, but that’s just what this one did.

    A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
    Not so much the cover of the edition featured here, which is quite nice, but this one, designed by David Pelham in 1972 to coincide with the film release. Supposedly banged out in a single evening, its use of bright, primary colors was startling at the time, hinting at the hallucinogenic nightmare within, and the use of a cog for an eye punned on the title, referenced the iconic film, and conveyed the sense of society being broken all at once. It’s brilliant on a level no other cover has quite been able to surpass.

    The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    Brilliant covers don’t have to be old; the cover to Thomas’ recent breakout novel, designed by artist Debra Cartwright, uses negative space in a bold, powerful way. Lead character Starr is depicted faithfully based on her description from the book—simultaneously fierce and terrified —and yet she is obscured by her message, which is somehow perfect. Like the subject matter of the story, this cover demands you look.

    Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes
    Speaking of negative space, is there a more brilliant use of it in publishing history? We submit that there is not.

    A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey
    We’re not here to rehabilitate Frey or his memoir-that-was-really-fiction. We’re here to praise the cover, and designer Rodrigo Corral. Whatever your opinion of the dark tale of addiction and the poor decisions behind it, the cover conveys chaos, confusion, helplessness—all the things that Frey either did or didn’t deal with in the course of his life. Its use of color is brilliant, and the wrongness of a hand covered in rainbow sprinkles clues you in to the nature of the story.

    The Stranger, by Albert Camus
    If your head spins a little when looking at Helen Yentus’ cover for Camus’ most famous book, you’re in the right headspace to start reading this disturbing, challenging story. The stark lines converging on the diffuse, cloud-like title creates a head-ache inducing optical illusion. Once you see it, you’ll never forget it; once you read the book, you’ll forever associate it nwith this powerful cover.

    The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
    Nothing against Elizabeth Moss, but the classic cover from the 1985 American paperback, which is still used for many versions of Margaret Atwood’s dark future vision, is the definition of iconic. The overwhelming wall, the apparently hopeless and random motion of the handmaids, and their iconic red costumes—these elements combine into one of the most evocative book covers ever.

    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Brave New World has had a lot of covers in its time. A lot. But this one, designed by Gregg Kulick for the modern classics series, is stunning. Similar in some ways to the Camus cover above, it combines the absurd and frightening tone of the story with a simple, bold approach that draws the eye and holds it tortuously. You try to figure out what you’re looking at, even as the sneaking suspicion that you don’t want to know creeps up on you.

    What’s your pick for the best cover ever?

    The post The 10 Best Book Covers of All Time appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ester Bloom 3:00 pm on 2015/06/04 Permalink
    Tags: book covers, , coverflips, , ,   

    #CoverFlip Revisited: A Progress Report 

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    In 2013, author and critic Maureen Johnson raised a searing point about the publishing industry: regardless of content, it tends to package books by men differently from books by women. Male authors are more likely to warrant strong fonts, bold colors, and imagery that commands Take me seriously. Novels by female authors, by contrast, are more likely to be dolled up, made to look frivolous in italics and pastels.

    Literary fiction by women is, in other words, too often packaged in a lazy, reductive way that diminishes its impact.

    Johnson’s call to arms in response to her discovery, hashtagged #CoverFlip, became a pop cultural phenomenon, as people raced to mock up, for example, what Freedom would look like if it bore the name Jane Franzen instead of Jonathan.


    At roughly the same time, photojournalist and author Deborah Copaken spoke out in the Nation about the sexism she experienced trying to publish her first book, a memoir about being a photojournalist in war zones:

    Random House changes the book’s title to Shutterbabe, which a friend came up with. I beg for Shuttergirl instead, to reclaim at least “girl,” as Lena Dunham would so expertly do years later. Or what about Develop Stop Fix? Anything besides a title with the word “babe” in it.

    I’m told I have no say in the matter. The cover that the publisher designs has a naked cartoon torso against a pink background with a camera covering the genitalia. I tell them it’s usually my eye behind the camera, not my vagina. I fight—hard—to change the cover. Thankfully, I win this one, agreeing to shoot the cover photo myself, gratis. When my publicist tries to pitch the book to NPR’s Terry Gross, a producer tells him that Terry likes the “Shutter” part of the title but not the “babe” part.

    Now that the year is 2015, I’m wondering, what has changed? Anything? Did people in publishing get the message and are highbrow books by women books treated with more respect? To my surprise, I think the answer might be yes.

    Consider this screenshot from the Barnes & Noble website, which helpfully juxtaposes novels by prize-winning authors of both genders, including Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot SeeToni Morrison’s God Help The Childand Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins.

    Screenshot 2015-05-20 14.21.12

    There’s no appreciable visual difference, to my eye, between the Doerr on the left and the Morrison and Atkinson in the middle. All offer strong fonts, bold colors, and eye-catching design, the kind that says, Don’t mess with me unless it’s to give me a medal.

    The new Vivian Gornick memoir has the words “woman” and “city” in the title, and yet there are no martini glasses or high-heeled shoes to be found on that stark and appropriate-looking cover.


    Consider, too, Buzzfeed’s list of 2014’s best books by women. One or two of the covers may trade in stereotypical colors and images. For the most part, though, they are dressed to impress, packaged to look strong rather than pretty.

    One-time bookseller Michele Filgate generally agrees with this assessment:

    We have seen some great covers for women writers over the past couple of years. The Goldfinch, Dear Thief, and Nobody Is Ever Missing are three that come to mind. But we still have a long way to go.

    She also offers a radical corrective: “This is going to sound sacrilegious, but part of me wishes we could do away with cover art. It would solve a lot of problems. Practically speaking, however, I know that’s not a good idea.”

    Assuming we retain the tradition of cover art, some will continue to draw on lazy stereotypes and clip-art shorthand. And, of course, prestige fiction and memoir by women has often, though definitely not always, been given more consideration than the average lady-book. Still, just as H is for HawkP is for Progress. Let’s give publishers a P and keep on moving in what is mostly the right direction.

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  • Emma Chastain 12:58 pm on 2015/03/25 Permalink
    Tags: book covers, , ,   

    The Go Set a Watchman Cover Has Been Revealed 

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    In February, readers everywhere were thrilled to learn that national treasure Harper Lee is set to publish a new novel, Go Set a WatchmanLee says Go Set a Watchman is the “parent” of her beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird

    “In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.”

    This morning, HarperCollins revealed the moody, evocative cover art for Lee’s forthcoming novel, which hits shelves on July 14.


    Harper Lee’s name is set in ivory, and the book title in yellow. In the foreground, we see a black tree sparsely peppered with yellow leaves. The dark teal color of the ground and sky suggests dusk, or dawn. In the background, a train approaches, its headlight on. It’s a depiction of a literal event in the book—Scout’s return to Maycomb to visit her family—but it’s also a symbol. Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins, says, “Go Set a Watchman begins with Scout’s train ride home, but more profoundly, it is about the journey Harper Lee’s beloved characters have taken in the subsequent 20 years of their lives.”

    The jacket was designed by Jarrod Taylor. The font and artwork recall the storied original cover of To Kill a Mockingbird and summon up the 1950s, the era in which Go Set a Watchman takes place. Both book jackets feature trees. The green leaves on the Mockingbird cover evoke spring or summer; the yellow leaves of Watchman suggest autumn. What does this newly revealed cover art tell us about the plot of Lee’s forthcoming novel? We’ll have to wait until July 14 to answer that question.

    Preorder Go Set a Watchman here >
  • Melissa Walker 3:30 pm on 2014/10/16 Permalink
    Tags: book covers, , , , , melissa walker, , ,   

    Exclusive Cover Reveal: Melissa Walker’s Dust to Dust 

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    The sequel to 2013’s Ashes to Ashes is coming next year, and its cover is just as mysterious and stirring as the first. Of course, as the author of Dust to Dust, I’m possibly a little biased. When I saw the original image for this cover, I loved the cohesion it had with the Ashes to Ashes cover, and the feeling it created. But, I also said, “Hmm…the mountains and the prairie-girl dress feel off to me.” Luckily, the art department was all over that already, and they made amazing changes to modernize Callie’s dress and make the setting fit perfectly with a major setting of Dust to Dust—a Charleston cemetery.

    I asked one of the talented cover designers, Kate Engbreng, if she would weigh in on the process, and she happily agreed. As an author, I know all about struggling with words, but images are another story. So how did Kate first approach the design? By reading the book, of course. Below, Kate shares her journey with the cover of Dust to Dust:

    “The best way for me to get any sort of feeling or view of the world that the author has created is to dive right in and read the manuscript. Sometimes ideas come straight away, sometimes it takes me stewing over the text for a few days, but always, things reveal themselves (ghosts, anyone?).”

    Ashes to Ashes_new cover

    “After reading Dust to Dust, I found the shoot from which the image for Ashes to Ashes (above) was taken. Yes, since this was a sequel and we needed to stay in line with the look of book one, I wondered if we could find something that matched the mood of Ashes to Ashes, with our same gal. As it goes we didn’t find anything that felt right. Ashes to Ashes is so bewitching because you have this peaceful scene with a mysterious girl that leaves you with so many questions. I wanted to find an image that felt of a piece with Ashes to Ashes, but that also brought with it a new set of questions. We also needed the girl to look like Callie.


    “Our cover photo, above, originally had a beautiful mountain scene that the girl (our Callie) was looking out on, and a much more blue palette. Everything else about this image was perfect. It IS the cemetery where she spends so much time.  So, we worked with a retoucher to mask that out, and really bring these gorgeous clouds to the foreground. I also wanted the ethereal world created for Ashes to Ashes to carry over, but also show that Callie is in a different space, so I brought in those really warm purples and oranges that seem to hold you in this dreamlike scene.”

    Thank you, Kate! I’m thrilled with this cover, and I think the two books together look amazing. I hope readers will agree!

    Dust to Dust is available for preorder now.

  • Sara Brady 5:00 pm on 2014/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: Anna Campbell, book covers, , Erin McCarthy, fall coverage, , Melanie Scott, , , , ,   

    Judging a Book by Its Cover: Fall Romance Releases 

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    Season of StormsHow important is a book cover? Since I started reading e-books, covers have become much less important to me, but there’s still no underestimating the power of a great one. And there are super talented people working in design, creating unique, evocative, gorgeous covers for some of our favorite authors. Here are some of my favorites that came out recently:

    The paperback rerelease of Nora Roberts’s Jewels of the Sun has a particularly fetching face, from the quaint little cottage where so much of the book takes place to the mysteriously roiling clouds above, hinting at the book’s supernatural subplot. I’m tempted to replace my well-worn late-’90s paperback with this gorgeous new edition.

    Susanna Kearsley’s books always have stunning covers (seriously, look at them—wouldn’t you just love to hang those on the wall of your secluded island getaway?), and her latest, Season of Storms, is no exception. The woman on the cover, turned away from the viewer, hints at the duality of identity that is the center of the book’s mystery, and with that Gothic mansion in the background, I just want to get lost in this one on the next rainy day.

    Fellow readers I trust have been raving about Anna Campbell for years now, and the cover of her new entry in the Sons of Sin series, What a Duke Dares, has won me over. I love the typography, I love her dress, and I’m particularly interested in that shirtless dude right there. It’s all just so lusciously inviting, and yes, I would really like to know what this particular duke is daring.

    Sometimes what I’m in the mood for is an angst-fest I can get wrapped up in but not take too seriously, and that’s when I reach for the arty black-and-white new adult covers, like Erin McCarthy’s Shatter. It has a windswept ingénue and a guy who might be Freddie Prinze Jr. in 1998—what’s not to love?

    And now for something completely different: the cover of Far Gone, Laura Griffin’s new thriller, features no kissing people, no Gothic mansions, no quaint cottages, just a rose in a shattering vase. It’s a great, arresting image, and tells you what to expect on the inside—conflict, overlaid with sensuality. (And, of course, a serial killer. But that’s implied.)

    Finally, I’m a sucker for a baseball book. I’m also a sucker for Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., so you can probably see where I’m going with the cover of The Devil in Denim, by Melanie Scott. Look, I’m allowed to be shallow once in a while.

    What romances are you digging into this season?

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